Two people were killed and several others were hospitalized Wednesday after a predawn demolition raid into the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region erupted into clashes, as Israeli forces used sponge-tipped bullets, tear gas canisters, and stun grenades to violently suppress locals and supporters who had gathered to resist the demolitions.
A Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli forces after he allegedly carried out a car ramming attack on Israeli officers, leaving several injured, according to Israeli police. However, numerous eyewitness accounts said that the driver lost control of his vehicle after he was shot, causing him to crash into Israeli police, one of whom was killed.Israeli Knesset member Taleb Abu Arar said that the police killed Abu Qian “in cold blood,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying. “The police shot him for no reason. The claims that he tried to run over police are not true.”
Locals identified the slain Palestinian citizen of Israel as 47-year-old Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qian, a math teacher at al-Salam High School in the nearby town of Hura.
Israeli police later confirmed that a policeman succumbed to injuries he sustained by being hit by the car. The slain officer was identified as 34-year-old Erez Levi.Knesset member Ayman Odeh and head of the Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel, was injured in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets, locals said, and taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Initial reports said police were firing rubber-coated steel bullets that are used by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, which was later denied by Israeli police.
A video later emerged showed Odeh bleeding on the ground moments after he was shot.
Odeh wrote in a statement on his Facebook page saying that “a crime was committed in Umm al-Hiran as hundreds of police members violently raided the village firing tear-gas bombs, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets. Villagers, women, men, and children stood with their bare hands against the brutality and violence of the police.”Hundreds of Israeli police arrived to Umm al-Hiran at around 5 a.m. to secure the area for Israeli authorities to carry out a demolition campaign in the village.
Israeli news blog 972 Magazine quoted witness and activist Kobi Snitz as saying that police beganpulling drivers out of vehicles, and attacking and threatening others.
A short while later, Snitz said he heard gunfire and saw a white pickup truck about 30 meters from police, telling 972: “They started shooting at the car in bursts from all directions.”
According to the report, it was only after the driver appeared to have been wounded and lost control of his vehicle that it crashed into the police officers, contradiction Israeli police reports.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote in a statement that “a vehicle driven by a terrorist from the Islamic Movement intended to strike a number officers and carry out an attack,” and that police officers responded by shooting and killing the driver.
One resident told Ynet that police “suddenly came without warning, threw me on the floor and shot me in the leg. My uncle, who they are saying is a terrorist, is a teacher in a school … He was in his car on a regular journey and signaled.”
Eyewitnesses also confirmed to NGO Adalah that Abu al-Qian was trying to leave the village and lost control of his car only after police fired at him.
Rosenfeld claimed that Abu al-Qian was a member of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and that police were investigating to determine whether or not he was “influenced” by the so-called Islamic State.
The police spokesman added that al-Qian was “involved in education and had a negative and dangerous influence.”
Israeli authorities were still preparing to carry out the demolitions as of 11 a.m., when clashes reportedly began again. Israeli journalist Mairav Zonszein said on Twitter that police were pushing and clashing with Joint List MKs that remained at the site and that tensions were “very high.”
Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning.
The local council for the Bedouin village of Hura, where al-Qian worked as a high school math teacher, declared a general strike to be held Wednesday to include all educational institutions in solidarity and protest of the teacher’s killing.
MK Ayman Odeh wrote on Facebook around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday that after negotiations over the impending demolitions between residents of Umm al-Hiran and the Israeli government broke down, villagers called to prepare a demonstration to resist Israeli bulldozers.“It is important that everyone who is able to be here,” Odeh wrote, as he affirmed that he was heading to the village. “Demolishing a home should be no picnic! We are ready and insistent to stand against bulldozers.”
According to Haaretz, the Israeli government approved the construction of the new Jewish community of Hiran in Nov. 2013 to be built on the land of Umm al-Hiran. Village residents lost the legal defenses they mounted, including an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, and were unable to prevent the demolition of the village.
Ynet quoted residents as saying that “We will not leave the homes even if they kill us all. This is our land here and we will not move from here even if we have to pay with our lives.”
Umm al-Hiran is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state, and more than half of the some 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.
The classification of their villages as “unrecognized” prevents Bedouins from developing or expanding their communities, and Israeli authorities have also refused to connect them to the national water and electricity grids, while excluding the communities from access to health and educational services.
Rights groups have claimed that demolitions in unrecognized Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.
“Palestinians from Umm al-Hiran have Israeli passports and citizenship, yet the Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing, colonization, forcible displacement, and apartheid affect them all the same,” Maya al-Orzza, a legal researcher at NGO BADIL said Wednesday.
“These policies do not only happen in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also inside Israel against Palestinians,” al-Orzza said, noting that Palestinians make up some 20 percent of Israel citizenry.
Commenting on a peace conference in Paris held Sunday that reaffirmed international commitment to the two-state solution and the cessation of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory, al-Orzza said that “creating two states brings no solution to Palestinian citizens of Israel who will be left in an apartheid state that will slowly continue to displace them.”
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