Police brace for possible Israeli Arab unrest on Land Day
Police say there is no indication that any unusual activity is being planned to mark the occasion, but security forces are not ruling out the possibility given the recent events that have engulfed the Middle East in recent weeks.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch held a series of meetings on Monday with top police officials and Arab community leaders in preparation for the commemoration of Land Day, which will be marked on Wednesday.
The first Land Day protests were held on March 30, 1976, to protest government expropriation of Galilee land for "security and settlement purposes." Those protests deteriorated into violent clashes with security forces, leaving six Israeli Arab protesters dead.
At this stage, police say there is no indication that any unusual activity is being planned to mark the occasion, yet the security forces are not ruling out the possibility of unrest given the recent events that have engulfed the Middle East in recent weeks.
This year, Arab community leaders are planning a "unity" theme for Land Day. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is devoting the day to solidarity with the Bedouin in the south.
The head of the movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, recently took a trip to the Negev town of Rahat, where he filmed a short video on home demolitions. The Islamic Movement has encouraged local Bedouin in Rahat to rebuild structures that have been razed by the state.
Police are also making contingency plans in the event that demonstrations erupt in the south in protest of the state's razing of Bedouin homes. Units will be on high alert throughout the day, ready to respond if necessary.
During their meetings on Monday, Police Commissioner David Cohen ordered that crowd-dispersal methods only be used with authorization from the district commander who is overseeing the operation on the ground.
Police are hoping to avoid a repeat of the tumult surrounding the demolition of illegal structures in the Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank, during which security personnel used rubber bullets against protesters. Security officials reached the conclusion that at times the methods used to disperse mobs only served to heighten tensions and inflame passions rather than restore order.
Police will focus on three specific areas as possible flashpoints during tomorrow's commemorations - Wadi Ara in the north, the Triangle in the center, and the scattered, unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and Rahat.
Aharonovitch also called on Arab public officials, who urged a general strike in the Arab sector to mark Land Day, to tone down the tenor of their statements.
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