Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sheikh Khatib: We'll never give up al-Aqsa

Islamic Movement leader tells Arab children Israeli occupation of Jerusalem must end

Sharon Roffe-Ofir

Thousands of Arab children headed to Jerusalem Saturday to celebrate the annual festival of the Al-Aqsa Children's Fund initiative, which prompts Muslim youngsters to donate their allowance in favor of the mosque and Islamic Movement institutions.The movement's Northern Branch's Deputy Chairman, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, spoke to the children and stressed that Muslims will never give up any parts of the holy Muslim site.

About 200 buses packed with children from Arab communities nationwide headed to Jerusalem since early morning hours. The children presented the cashboxes from their communities, and Islamic Movement officials estimated that a total of NIS 3 million (roughly $750,000) was raised this year. The event was attended by movement heads, sheikhs, and Arab dignitaries, including Sheikh Khatib who arrived with his four children.

'A big lie'

In his speech to the youngsters, Khatib said: "We have no partners here at the mosque," referring to Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich's recent visit to the site. "The al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy and occupied place, just like the whole of Jerusalem, which was occupied by the IDF in 1967. The occupation must be removed from the mosque in particular, and from Jerusalem in general."

"The Jews should not be thinking that they can build their Temple on the ruins of the al-Aqsa Mosque," Khatib said. "This day won't come. Those who dream that we, the Muslims, will renounce part of the al-Aqsa mosque should know that their dream will not see the light."

The Al-Aqsa Children's Fund initiative was launched eight years ago and has become increasingly popular among Islamic Movement members. Homes of movement members are equipped with cashbox that the children contribute to daily.

Police officials seized the money raised by the movement last year, claiming it was meant to fund Hamas. Northern Branch activists say that the move was tantamount to theft.

"They stole the children's money, and the time has come to pay it back," Khatib told Ynet. "The claim that we collected money for Hamas is a big lie. The money is aimed for one and only objective – the al-Aqsa Mosque."

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