Israeli Arabs Clash With Police Over Building Demolition

Interior Ministry razed 220-square-meter building in Bir al-Maksur village; residents complain of shortage of housing

Residents of an Arab village in the north clashed with police on Tuesday over the demolition of an illegal building.

The Building Inspection Unit of the Interior Ministry’s Northern District razed a 220-square-meter building in the village of Bir al-Maksur near Shfaram Tuesday morning, claiming the structure had been built without a permit. The demolition was conducted under heavy police security.

As the work proceeded, young men started throwing stones at police, and a confrontation ensued during which police used crowd dispersal tactics, including tear gas. Several protesters suffered gas inhalation and required medical treatment.

Police periodically closed nearby Route 75, from the Movil junction to the Somekh junction, during the demolition.

The Interior Ministry said that the building was illegal, unoccupied and unfinished, and that it had been built on agricultural land outside the approved village limits, encroaching on land belonging to the Jezreel Valley Regional Council. Two demolition orders had been issued against the building since 2007, the ministry said.

Bir al-Maksur local council chairman Dr. Yasser Hujeirat confirmed that the building was built without a permit, but said that it had been built due to a serious shortage of housing in the village. He said that the building was located only a few meters from other houses in the community and did not pose an obstacle to anything or anyone, but was torn down just for the sake of tearing it down, as he put it.

“This was land that had no other use and there was no logical reason to forbid construction in the area,” Hujeirat said. “Too bad the Interior Ministry didn’t consider that and instead related to us as if we were enemies.”

Following the morning’s confrontation, the heads of the area’s Bedouin villages declared a three-day general strike, including shutting down local schools, to protest the demolition and the “harsh treatment” they said police had meted out to those protesting the demolition.

The Israel Police said that its forces had used crowd dispersal tactics against rioters who threw stones at police and on the main road that borders the village.

There were reports of additional clashes later in the afternoon.