Fears of Violence Following Arrest of Islamic Movement Head, Bars Him from Yerushalayim


salahIsraeli Security forces fear an outbreak of further violence following the arrest of the leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, Sheikh Ra’ad Salah. Salah was arrested, and later released, last night after Police Commissioner David Cohen, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Yerushalayim police chief Aharon Franco decided that Salah would be interrogated about recent statements.

The Yerushalayim Magistrate’s Court ordered Salah released four hours after his arrest. Judge Shimon Fineberg accepted the police’s argument that Salah’s statements could endanger the peace in Yerushalayim , but he said it would be enough to keep him out of the city. Salah was ordered to stay out of Yerushalayim for 30 days.

Cohen, Lador and Franco said the statements “ostensibly involved a series of statements of incitement and sedition.” Earlier this week, Salah called for Muslims to come to the Har Habyis to protest and prevent right-wing Jewish groups from entering the site.

Police arrived at around 7 p.m. at a home in the East Yerushalayim neighborhood of Wadi Joz. They found Salah on the roof with about 30 people and took him into custody without resistance.

Many police officers have been redeployed from across the country to Yerushalayim’s Old City and East Yerushalayim ; yesterday they were also stationed in West Yerushalayim for fear Arabs would try to disturb the many visitors to the city.

Police remain on high alert today and are limiting the entry of Muslims to the Temple Mount for the fourth day in a row. Entry will be permitted to men over 50 and women of any age. Jewish visitors and tourists will not be allowed to enter the Mount.

Police yesterday said Salah’s arrest was not meant to involve the entire Arab community, but one individual alleged to have broken the law. They said they were working “determinedly to ensure freedom of religion and practice for all faiths … and to prevent individual extremists from breaking the rules and damaging the fabric of life.”

A spokesman for the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Attorney Zadi Nujeidat, told Haaretz : “We are a close-knit, grassroots movement, and we will continue our activities and call for a continued presence in and around the mosque.

“We are used to arrests and we will know how to deal with the arrest on a public level and in the courts. However, nothing will change our position.”

A tense calm prevailed yesterday in Yerushalayim , with nearly 2,000 police left with little to do as tens of thousands of visitors flooded the Old City and more than 70,000 people took part in two traditional Sukkos marches in the capital.

During the single violent incident , at around 5 p.m., dozens of Arab teens hurled rocks at police in the East Yerushalayim neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. They also set fire to wooden crates to block the road. Police cleared the way and the incident ended with no injuries or damage.

MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the decision to arrest Salah had “added fuel to the fire,” adding that he “placed responsibility on the police and their leaders for developments at Al-Aqsa.”

He said the arrest indicated that senior police officers had “lost their senses” and had surrendered to “extreme political figures in charge of them.” A fellow Knesset faction member, MK Ibrahim Sarsur, called for “an end to the incitement against the Islamic Movement and the Arab public.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined attacks on Israel yesterday in a televised interview in Yemen. He said Israel was harming worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and hinted that the Arab countries were not investing enough resources in assisting the Palestinians to prevent what he called the continued Judaization of Yerushalayim.

A senior official in the U.S. State Department said that the United States was monitoring developments closely. “We urge all parties to refrain from actions that could inflame tensions or lead to violence. All parties must take responsibility to calm the situation. Our continued priority is re-launching negotiations in an atmosphere conducive to their success,” the official said.

{Haaretz/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}