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Middle East

Islamist leader Salah briefly detained, banned from Jerusalem

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-10-07

Israel briefly detained Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Jerusalem, charging him of inciting ongoing unrest in the city. He has been barred from entering Jerusalem for 30 days.

AFP - Israeli police briefly detained the leader of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement on Tuesday over charges of incitement during recent days' tension in Jerusalem, raising fears of further violence.

Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested during clashes between Palestinians and police in the neighbourhood of Wadi Joz in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem on the third day of sporadic violence in and around the Holy City.

"He was arrested over his inflammatory statements in recent days and on suspicion of incitement," police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Rubi told AFP.

A Jerusalem court nevertheless ordered Salah's release several hours later, not before barring him from entering Jerusalem for 30 days, a courts spokeswoman said.

Salah, who has been arrested several times and spent two years in Israeli prison, has repeatedly called in recent days for Muslims in Israel and the Palestinian territories to "defend" the Al-Aqsa mosque against Israel.

Several Israeli government ministers called for Salah's arrest and for the outlawing of his wing of the Islamic Movement, which boycotts Israeli parliamentary elections out of a refusal to recognise the Jewish state but runs several Israeli Arab town councils.

Tensions have run high since Sunday after authorites closed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City, claiming people were inciting violence. Clashes broke out, with seven Palestinian protesters injured and three arrested.

On Tuesday, some 2,000 police officers deployed in strength across Jerusalem as an annual Jewish march took place with no reported incidents.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Sukkot, with one group passing through the annexed Arab eastern sector.

Palestinian youths hurled stones at police in several neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem, with one officer stabbed in the neck and lightly wounded, and 20 Palestinians arrested.

Israeli authorities continued on Tuesday to limit access to the mosque compound in the Old City to Muslim men aged 50 and over, with no restrictions for women. Jews and Christians were also barred.

Amid the tension, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told public radio "the battle is underway for sovereignty over Jerusalem and particularly over the Temple Mount."

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Israel of deliberately escalating tensions in east Jerusalem, warning that it was like "lighting matches in the hope of sparking a fire."

"What makes this all the more dangerous is the vacuum created by the absence of a credible peace process that offers hope instead of more settlements" on Palestinian land, he said.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "is following the events of recent days from his home and is being updated constantly and carrying out consultations with the internal security minister and the other security organisations," his office said.

Tensions flared on Sunday near the Al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The site is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, and has often been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The second Palestinian intifada broke out there in September 2000 after a visit by Ariel Sharon, the right-wing politician who became Israeli prime minister the following year.

The annual Sukkot marches in Jerusalem, with participants varying from Israeli health enthusiasts walking for the sport to evangelical Christians showing support for the Jewish state, have taken on an increasingly nationalist flavour over the past several years.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community. It considers the entire city to be its "eternal, indivisible" capital.

The Palestinians want to make the eastern part of the city the capital of their promised state.

Date created : 2009-10-07