Sheikh Kamal Khatib, who holds the position of the "deputy head of the Islamic Movement inside Palestine (Israel)," warned of a possible internal conflict with "the Israeli occupation" and threatened a "huge eruption" if Israel intervened on the Temple Mount ("Al Aqsa") and continued, according to him, to bother the Muslims praying there.
In an interview with the Al-Quds news agency quoted on the al-Aqsa website, Khatib lashed out at Israeli police forces, who intervened Friday after Muslims rioted at the Mount and began throwing rocks. The Sheikh insisted that the police, rather than preventing more unrest, were part of a wide-scale Israeli agenda to prevent worshipers from being comfortable at the site.
Channel 10 reported Friday that the incident occurred at about 12:30 pm, as worshippers began throwing stones at the police forces always present at the Temple Mount site. Police responded with typical riot control measures, including stun grenades, according to the news agency. It is unclear what prompted the attacks.
Sheikh Khatib called on Muslims to come to the aid of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, calling for it to be a place of Muslims alone, and claiming that all statements of the Jews regarding the construction of the Third Temple are nothing but "tales of the imagination."
The Temple Mount, which is Judaism's holiest site, has been a hotbed of clashes between Jewish and Muslim worshippers over the past several months. Just last week, police closed the Mount to non-Muslims after tensions almost boiled over during an incident in which a large group of Islamists confronted Jewish visitors, who responded by singing Hanukkah songs at the site.
The Mount has also been frequently closed to Jewish visitors and is often the site of anti-Jewish discrimination. Jews are prevented from praying or performing any other religious ritual, while Muslim and Christian visitors pray freely.
Muslim anger over the site has escalated since MKs have announced efforts to equalize prayer rights at the site, through legislation which would allow full religious freedom.
Calls by Islamic Movement figures for Muslims to "defend" the site against Jewish visitors has triggered violence in that past.
In September, the head of the northern branch of the Islamist group, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, was arrested for incitement after urging Muslims to block Jews from ascending the Temple Mount "with their bodies."