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Israel says Sheikh Salah in 'good health'

May 31, 2010 11:50 A.M. (Updated: June 1, 2010 3:05 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sheikh Raed Salah was not seriously hurt during an Israeli raid of an aid convoy en route to Gaza which saw at least 10 activists killed, describing reports of critical injuries as "rumors."

Ministry spokesman Ofer Gendelman told Ma'an that Salah sustained minor injuries and said three Israeli soldiers sustained gun shot wounds. He further said empty magazine rounds were found on board, used by activists.

Gendelman said Israel would continue to deal with any break the siege campaign to Gaza similar to the current strategy, adding "no country in the world would accept such a blatant provocation to its sovereignty and we are dealing with the provokers in accordance with international and Israeli law."

Other sources said Salah was on the remaining boat that has yet to dock in Ashdod.

Sources told Ma'an that Salah was critically injured by Israeli forces that attacked the Freedom Flotilla Monday morning, and was receiving treatment at Israel's Tel Hashomer Hospital for gunshot wound to head.

Israeli military sources said Salah was injured but not critical, and claimed he was not carrying identification.

Salah is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Massive protests are expected in the north, with Palestinian citizens of Israel already labeling the incident an attempted assassination.

The leader announced his participation in the flotilla at a conference in Germany three weeks ago, where he called on Palestinians in the diaspora to continue to fight for their right of return.

Salah was recently banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque following allegations that he had assaulted an Israeli officer in 2007 during protests at the holy site, where he led activities against Israeli excavations around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. He called on both Muslim and Christian clerics to hold a meeting in East Jerusalem to put forward their opposition to excavations. However, the meeting was banned by Israeli authorities claiming the organization which behind the event, Al-Aqsa Foundation, was affiliated with Hamas.

Organizers insisted on holding the meeting, and they moved it to another hotel, but Israeli forces intervened and broke up the gathering. Salah then told the British Guardian newspaper “it was a childish behavior on the part of Israeli security forces…”

Salah was acquitted of all charges last month.

In May 2003 Salah was arrested and detained by Israel forces on charges of funding Hamas, serving two years in Israeli jail. Upon his release a travel ban was placed on him, preventing him from leaving Israeli-controlled borders and requiring him to check in with police every month.

Sheikh Salah have made several comments about the Jewish connection with the Western Wall confirming that it was part of Al-Aqsa compound. Salah was quoted by the electronic website of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth as saying “The Western Wall - on all its various parts, structures and gates, and all the names these parts, structures and gates are called – is an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound. He who says that the Jews or the Israeli establishment has any right to al-Aqsa, even to just one stone - this is an abominable attack, a falsehood, completely baseless."

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