Police to Release Islamic Movement Leader Who Took Part in Gaza Flotilla

Lawyers representing Sheikh Raed Salah and three other Islamic leaders say Israel had no right to arrest them for deeds performed in international waters.

An Islamic Movement leader detained earlier this week after taking part in a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla will be released from custody on Thursday, Israeli security forces said.

Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah
Tess Scheflan

Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, was arrested upon his return to Israel on Monday. Salah was sailing on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the ship on which nine activists were killed during the deadly clashes with Israel's Navy commandos.

Salah will be released along with the three other senior members of the Israeli Arab sector who were arrested for their participation in the flotilla - Mohammed Zeidan, the head of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and Sheikh Hammad Abu Daabes, the head of the Southern Wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and Free Gaza delegation leader Lubna Masarwa.

The court had initially agreed to extend their remand by eight days. On Wednesday, however, the Muslim leaders' team of nine legal attorneys said that Israel had no right to arrest them for their actions in international waters and fervently denied any of the allegations against them.

Shortly after news broke out on Monday regarding the bloodshed on the Gaza-bound ship, rumors broke that Salah had been killed in the operation. Police feared that if the rumors were true, it would spark a violent retaliation from within the Israeli Arab sector.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike in Israel's Arab sector on Tuesday to protest the flotilla clashes, an unusual step that the group has tried to avoid in recent years.

The committee held an emergency meeting at its Nazareth offices, including the heads of all the country's Arab political groups and parties.

In addition to the strike, the committee also announced that protest marches and rallies would be held in Arab communities, and called on the international community to investigate the circumstances behind the flotilla's interception.

The Arab leadership also called on the international community to try the prime minister and the defense minister for violating international law.

The committee described the clashes as "state-sponsored terrorism and piracy that requires those responsible to be tried."