Police Interrogate Islamic Movement Chief Sheikh Raed Salah Over Role in Gaza Flotilla Clashes

Israeli-Arab leaders declare general strike to protest clash, call international community to investigate flotilla's interception.

Ashdod police interrogated Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Tuesday over his role in the clashes between pro-Palestinian activists and Israeli troops following the Israel Navy raid on the Gaza aid flotilla.

Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah
Tess Scheflan

MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad), who was also arrested and interrogated over her participation in the Gaza aid flotilla, was released from police custody early Tuesday.

The other members of the Arab sector who were arrested fro 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 - remain in police custody.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike in Israel's Arab sector yesterday to protest the flotilla clash, an unusual step 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 clash as "state-sponsored terrorism and piracy that requires those responsible to be tried."
After the meeting, a procession marched through Nazareth. Hundreds of participants hoisted Palestinian and black flags, and called for the blockade on the Gaza Strip to be lifted.
Other processions and demonstrations took place yesterday in Sakhnin, Haifa, Acre, Tamra, Shfaram, Arabeh, Tira and Taibeh.
In Umm al-Fahm, dozens of youths rallied in the city square, near the entrance to the highway through Wadi Ara. A large police deployment came, and the protesters threw stones at the officers. Several protesters were arrested for throwing stones.
Police had informed city residents that protests would be allowed, but that they would not allow disturbances including blocking roads or damaging government offices.
The Arab Israeli protests began after rumors began Monday morning that the head of the Northern Wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, may have been injured. He was on the flagship of the flotilla.
Palestinian and Israeli Arab media outlets reported that the sheikh had been killed, and Islamic Movement members and Umm al-Fahm residents began making their way to his home, even though there had been no confirmation of the news.
Efforts to communicate with the delegation members failed throughout the day, increasing tension.
By noon, there were reports that Sheikh Salah had been seriously injured and had been taken to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Family members rushed to hospital and the sheikh's brother was taken into the operating room, where he acknowledged that the man being treated was not his brother.
However, this did not assuage the Islamic Movement and the group's deputy, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, called on the security services to allow communication with Salah.
"We will not believe anyone until we have personally spoken with the sheikh, and Israel is fully responsible for his safety," Khatib said.
When the ship Salah was on was finally brought into Ashdod port, MK Zuabi announced all members of the group's delegation were safe, including Salah. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad ) confirmed the report.
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking it to order the security services to inform the families of the people who had been killed or detained. The petition was backed by other groups, including Physicians for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, due to concern that the news would spark riots in the Israeli Arab sector, as well as among right-wing and left-wing extremists, the police raised its alert to Level C.
Police are preparing for potential disturbances in East Jerusalem, in the Old City and in nearby Arab villages.
However, no restrictions have been imposed on entry into the Temple Mount complex.
"We will do everything necessary to keep the peace, but the security forces and law enforcement are ready for any situation," said Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
There were sporadic disturbances in Jerusalem yesterday. Four youths were arrested after they called on East Jerusalem shop owners to shut their shops to protest the flotilla clash.