JERUSALEM, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The Israeli government has outlawed a domestic group it described as the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, closing its 17 offices and freezing its bank accounts.
The raids against the religious and political organization, which has ties to Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, came after a government security Cabinet meeting, late Monday, declared the movement "an illegal organization." The decision makes it illegal to join or aid the group and permits seizure of its property.
"For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading 'al-Aqsa is in danger' that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the al-Aqsa Mosque and violate the status quo," a government statement said in reference to the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem. "A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda."
The leader of the movement, Shiekh Raed Salah, is at the forefront of calls to protect the mosque. He is former mayor of Umm al-Fahm, an Arab city in Israel, and has been convicted of an assortment of actions considered subversive by Israeli courts.
Tensions over the mosque on Temple Mount, which Palestinians say will soon be open to Jewish worship despite Israeli denials, have led to unrest between Israelis and Palestinians in recent months. Stabbings of Israeli soldiers and law enforcement officers, typically followed by the shooting of Palestinian suspects, have been common.
Ahmad Tibi, an Arab legislator in Israel, said in an interview the ban on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement was a "cynical political gesture" on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exploit last week's attacks in Paris.