Clashes With Israel Police Settle Down in Arab Locales

Law-enforcement officials ask for extended detention of over 30 suspects in Arab protests sparked by Kafr Kana shooting; inquiry into incident launched.

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Israeli Police arresting protesters in Kafr Kana on Nov. 9, 2014 following earlier shooting of local man.Credit: AP

There were signs that life was slowly returning to normal in Israel's Arab communities on Monday, following a general strike in most of those locales on Sunday.

The strike was called to protest the killing over the weekend of Khayr al-Din al-Hamdan by police in the northern town of Kafr Kana. Hamdan was shot by an officer after damaging a police van with a knife. A video of the incident has provoked questions over the use by police of firearms in such circumstances.

While security forces continue to be deployed in Kafr Kana, a decision is pending in court concerning requests by Israeli authorities to extend the detention of young people arrested Sunday in clashes with police.

As of late Sunday night, more than 30 suspects had been arrested in the north in connection with stone-throwing incidents, including 26 residents of Kafr Kana and another three from nearby Turan after tires were set alight at the main entrance to Kafr Kana. Four suspects arrested in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm were due to appear in court for a hearing regarding an extension of their remand in custody.

Four others were detained in the Taibeh area on suspicion of involvement in an attack on Route 444 in the Sharon region. In that incident, the vehicle of a local resident was torched. Early Monday morning additional suspects in the area were arrested.

The motorist, Moshe German, told Army Radio that he had been on his way home to Netanya from his place of work in Tzur Yigal when he was attacked.

“I sensed that the car was on fire, and I tried to hide from the stones. Several Arabs helped me get out of the car, got me into another vehicle and took me to a [police] cruiser,” German said, adding that he escaped with a few scratches and did not require medical treatment.

Of the 29 suspects arrested in the north, five minors were released on bail. Nazareth Magistrate’s Court is due to discuss the security forces' request to extend the detention of another 10 minors. Other detainees will appear in Tiberias Magistrate’s Court.  

On Sunday, representatives of three Arab-Israeli human rights organizations, the Mossawa Center, Adalah and Al Mezan, convened a meeting, after which they called for the assistance of dozens of lawyers around the country to represent and to follow the cases of those detained in the disturbances, particularly in Kafr Kana.

On Sunday evening at around 10 P.M., the Fureidis junction in the north was temporarily closed after an object was thrown at police from within a crowd of demonstrators near the town. The road was reopened after the object, which turned out to be an improvised pipe bomb, was removed.

Speaking on Monday, district police spokesman Eran Shaked said the incident was extremely grave. It is being investigated further to determine who assembled and threw the device.

“Fortunately it did not explode,” Shaked said, “since if it had, it certainly would have caused loss of life.”

There are apparently no other plans for further, large-scale public demonstrations in the Arab communities, although in the northern town of Sakhnin, some 1,500 high-school students held a protest.

Various organizational representatives and officials from the Kafr Kana local council met with investigators on Sunday who arrived at the site where Hamdan was shot. According to information obtained by Haaretz, investigators collected a hard disk with additional video clips from a security camera at the entrance to a store that is near the scene of the shooting.

Investigators also obtained a bullet that entered the home of a resident who witnessed the incident. Members of that household immediately called the police on Saturday to report the discovery of the bullet, it has been learned, but law-enforcement officials only arrived to collect it the following day.

The director of the Mossawa Center, Jafr Farah, said relatives of Hamdan are willing to cooperate with the Justice Ministry’s police investigation unit, which is looking into the conduct of the officers in the shooting. One of the questions raised by family members is whether the investigators took a statement from Hamdan’s cousin, who had been arrested before the shooting and was in the police van at the time of the confrontation. The cousin’s testimony, the family claims, could be critical in determining what happened in the incident.

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