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Protes ceroboh al Aqsa, Salah ditahan Israel

Al-Aqsa dig protest leader arrested

Al Jazeera, February 7 - Israeli police have arrested Raed Salah, the Arab head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, in Jerusalem's old city, officials said on Wednesday.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said: "Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested with six other activists after a dispute with police officers."

"These activists entered the old city by Dung gate and refused to obey police instructions to leave the area."

An Islamic Movement spokesman confirmed that Salah and six other members had been detained, saying that they had been "beaten" by policemen.

Salah went to the old city to protest against excavations being conducted by Israeli authorities for a second day ahead of public works, close to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The excavations have sparked a wave of Muslim protests.

Limited access

Israeli police on Wednesday continued to limit access to the compound - the third holiest site in Islam - to Muslim men over the age of 45 with Israeli identity cards and Muslim women.

Muslim protesters fear that Israeli excavations will damage key Islamic sites [AFP]

(Picture left - Raed Salah has led Muslim attempts to halt Israeli excavations near the Al-Aqsa compound - EPA)

David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, reported that there were up to 2,000 Israeli policemen securing the site.

Israel says the work is necessary but the timing of the excavations has generated anger and there are "accusations of extraordinary arrogance on the Israeli side" for not consulting with Muslim or Arab leaders, Chater said.

The excavation will continue for eight months.

Palestinian armed groups have warned continuing the work could threaten the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire.

Arab anger

Chater said: "It could unite the whole of the Arab world against the Israelis and undermine the peace process."

The Islamic Movement has for years waged a campaign to "save" Al-Aqsa, the main mosque on the compound in Israeli-occupied and annexed east Jerusalem.

In July 2005, Salah was released after more than two years in an Israeli prison on charges of terrorism.

He and four other Arab Israelis were arrested in May 2003, accused of belonging to a "terrorist organisation" and funding the Palestinian group Hamas.

The Islamic Movement always denied the accusations and accused the authorities of waging a political campaign against the group. Al Jazeera and Agencies

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