Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday issued a surprise presidential decree relieving the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, of his duties, saying that he had reached the pension age.  The Muslim leader had been an outspoken critic of Israeli development on sacred Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

The decree appointed Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, the director of the Aqsa Mosque, as Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine to replace Sheikh Sabri.

Well informed Palestinian sources in occupied Jerusalem said that Abbas’ surprise decision followed a sermon given by Sabri on Friday in the Aqsa Mosque in which he criticized Palestinian parties that contribute to besieging the Palestinian government and people.