JERUSALEM - Israel's largest book chain has dropped plans for an in-store promotion of the latest edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying the edition would be sold only online.
The issue, going on sale in the Jewish state by Steimatzky on Monday, is the first published since a deadly attack on the magazine's Paris offices on January 7 and has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.
Steimatzky said it would not be holding a special sale of the issue, which had reportedly been due to take place at one of their branches in Tel Aviv, but would instead be selling the magazine exclusively through its website.
"The chain decided that special sale of the issue in question won't take place at a branch of the chain but will take place only on Steimatzky's website," it said.
"Steimatzky firmly backs the freedom of expression. The chain has sold the Charlie Hebdo magazine for several years and will continue to do so."
Since the grisly Paris attack, in which 12 people were gunned down by two Islamist extremists, sales of the magazine have skyrocketed, provoking a series of sometimes deadly protests across the Muslim world.
Islam forbids depictions of the prophet.
Public radio quoted the chain as saying it had not received threats or come under pressure but had changed its plans due to complaints from customers living far from the Tel Aviv area who would be unable to buy the magazine in person.
It said copies would be limited to two per customer.
Speaking on army radio, Masud Ghanayem, an MP from Israel's Islamic Movement, warned that distribution of the magazine could spark violence in Israel, where about 20 percent of the population is Arab, mostly Muslim, and religious passions run high.
"It may be freedom of speech but it's not freedom to incite or to humiliate," he said.
"I warned them: we won't stay quiet if something is distributed which hurts our prophet."
In separate remarks to Ynet news website, he described the move as "a very serious, dangerous and stupid step" that was likely to cause "anger among Muslims."