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Netanyahu warns of Temple Mount agitation ahead of Pesach

Leader of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah speaks at a demonstration in the town of Kfar Kana, northern Israel, in May 2015
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP)
Jewish holidays are traditionally a sensitive time in Israel, with the country on heightened alert

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned that there are ongoing attempts to reignite dwindling tensions in Jerusalem ahead of Pesach, particularly surrounding the Temple Mount.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu pointed the finger at the leader of the banned northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah.

"We are aware of attempts by Salah to fuel the tensions at the Temple Mount compound ahead of Passover," the prime minister said.

"He is a one-man dynamite. I ask that that security officials and the justice minister take action to distance him. He should be in jail already."

Netanyahu also reiterated the ban on ministers and members of the Knesset from visiting the Temple Mount.

Jewish holidays are traditionally a sensitive time in Israel, with the country on alert for an increased risk of terror attacks and closures imposed on the West Bank during Pesach and occasionally other holidays, such as last Purim.

There has also been a recent resurgence in videos and messages shared on Palestinian social media about the alleged harm that Israel is doing to the status quo surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Ynet reports. Israel views such content as incitement which provokes Palestinians into carrying out attacks in order to protect their holy sites.

The northern branch of the Islamic Movement was outlawed in November 2015 because of its alleged ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Leader Salah was in October sentenced to 11 months in prison for inciting violence over Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque in 2007, but he has not yet been jailed due to an appeal he filed with the Supreme Court.

In spite of Netanyahu's warning, however, the rate of attacks in Israel has seen a marked decrease in recent weeks. According to Ynet, the Shin Bet and the wider security apparatus on Sunday presented their latest figures to government ministers.

March saw 20 attacks take place in Israel and the West Bank, compared with 78 in October 2015, when the current wave of violence began. Three attacks have taken place so far in April.

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