"The recent events in Jerusalem's Old City mark the beginning of a difficult period, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, the deputy head of the Islamic Movement's branch in northern Israel, told Ynet on Monday, "The al-Aqsa Mosque is ours, and Jerusalem is our city. This should be a place of peace, not war."
On Sunday Khatib was arrested along with Fatah's Jerusalem portfolio holder Hatem Abdel Kader and three others during the riots that erupted in Jerusalem's Old City after local police decided to restrict access to the Temple Mount compound – both to tourists and visitors – as a precautionary measure, after learning that residents of east Jerusalem were urged to "come to protect the Mount" amid rumors that extremist Jews were planning to visit the site.
All five were arraigned Sunday evening by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and were released on bail. The court issued a restraining order barring Abdel Kader from the Old City for 15 days, and Khatib from Jerusalem-proper for 15 days. Khatib said he would return to the capital once the court order expires.
Addressing the Muslim world's mild response to the developments in east Jerusalem, Khatib said, "If people in Israel think that that the Muslims are silent, they are gravely mistaken. History has showed us that the Islamic faith will eventually erupt, and when it does there is no telling how things will end."
Speaking from his home in Kfar Kana, the sheikh continued to say that "al-Aqsa is one of the three most important Muslim holy sites. Even if police officers stand guard with horses and dogs, they won’t be able to prevent Muslims from coming to (the al-Aqsa Mosque)."
Heeding the call of Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah, hundreds of supporters continued to flock to Jerusalem on Monday. After their entrance to al-Aqsa was blocked, they gathered at the nearby Wadi Joz neighborhood in east Jerusalem to hear Salah speak.
"We'll liberate al-Aqsa with blood and fire," Salah told the crowd.
Referring to Jerusalem District Police Commander Aharon Franco remark that "Arabs are ungrateful," Sheikh Khatib said, "We do not have to say thank you to Franco or anyone else. This is our mosque. If he thinks he is doing us a favor by allowing us to pray there, he is wrong. He speaks for Israel's leaders, and this is what concerns us."
The discovery, along with intelligence suggesting mass riots were indeed planned, were the main reasons for the police decision to limit access to the compound to Israeli Arabs only – men over the age of 50 and women of all ages.