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Border Police officers searched the homes of Israeli Arabs in Umm al-Fahm without search warrants Friday, residents said. They were looking for Palestinian workers staying in Israel illegally.

Residents said they were awoken at 7 A.M. Friday by gunshots and shouts of the officers, who raided the bedrooms of children as well as adults. The operation lasted for several hours.

Border Police representatives said Israel Defense Forces and Border Police troops identified three figures crossing the West Bank separation fence into Israel, near Umm al-Fahm, on Friday morning. The three suspects were arrested and taken in for questioning.

The Wadi Malham neighborhood, where the searches were taking place, is adjacent to the separation fence.

In at least one instance, residents said that officers conducted their search despite an explicit request from a resident of the house that they leave.

One Umm al-Fahm resident, Raja Abed al-Latif, said the officers ordered children at gunpoint not to enter their house.

"I'm sure that doesn't happen in Hadera when they look for workers there," al-Latif said, referring to a nearby Jewish city. "I was convinced that I live in a democratic state. I told the policemen that perhaps they forgot that they are in the State of Israel. How dare they enter houses without showing warrants? Why do my children need to see such things?"

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said he arranged with the residents that they file complaints with the Justice Ministry's police investigations department over the police behavior.

"This is a violation of basic civil rights," he said. "The police need to keep the law while they enforce it, and it cannot be that they feel that Arab communities are forfeited territory."