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Islamic leader in Israel watches Hamas' fate closely

There are no wrecked houses, no crushed or blasted bodies in Umm al-Fahm. But Israel is waging a campaign against this town of 45,000 inhabitants closely related to its current assault on Gaza. This is the home town of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern Islamic Movement, considered the more radical of its two branches in Israel and perceived as ideologically close to Hamas. Though Salah rejects violent resistance as a strategy for his movement, it has done little to stop most Israeli Jews viewing him as public enemy no 1. His refusal to engage with Israel as Jewish state, his rallying cry that the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem needs protecting from Israel, and his frequent spells in Israeli jails have contributed to his reputation as a "convicted facilitator of terror and rabble-rouser", as a recent Israeli editorial described him. With Salah its most famous son, Umm al-Fahm has become a key political battleground. This is where Israeli leaders most frequently question the "loyalty" of the country's large Palestinian minority, comprising a fifth of the population.

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