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Israel closes alleged Hamas offices in Jerusalem

Nov. 7, 2013 8:45 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2013 10:03 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli security forces on Thursday shut down two East Jerusalem offices they said were a cover for activities of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

A statement from Israel's Shin Bet internal security service said its agents and police closed "two Jerusalem offices, from which the Hamas terror organization had been conducting actions."

The Shin Bet named the offices as those of charity organization "Jerusalem for Development" and "Amarat al-Aqsa" (Al-Aqsa Properties) - which they said were ostensibly owned by the Islamic Movement in Israel, based in in the Arab Israeli cities of Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm.

According to the statement, the Jerusalem for Development offices were first closed in 2010 "after it emerged that they served as an executive arm" for Hamas in Jerusalem, and reopened in 2012.

Thursday's closure came "following up-to-date information that Hamas ... continues to act there."

Amarat al-Aqsa was closed due to "information on activities aiding and supporting Hamas in Jerusalem," the Shin Bet said, which also "led to violence against visitors and security forces on the Temple Mount," the term Israel uses for the compound which is home to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

On Wednesday, dozens of Palestinian women and men affiliated with Amarat al-Aqsa tried to prevent Israeli police from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque after a small Islamist demonstration was held at the flashpoint religious site near the Western Wall revered by Jews.

The Shin Bet noted that they also conducted a search in the Amarat al-Aqsa Nazareth offices.

Jamal Rashid, a lawyer and member of the Amarat al-Aqsa organization, said that the closure of the office was a "crime against charities," and that the organization works only to spread Islamic culture in Jerusalem.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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