A violent confrontation broke out Sunday in Rahat between police officers and mourners at the funeral of Sami al-Ja’ar, a Bedouin youth who was shot in the stomach during a police raid last week. One mourner died, 22 were injured.
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Ja’ar and others had been suspected of trafficking drugs and arms.
Over 8,000 people attended the funeral, which stretched - in the form of an orderly procession - from the central Rahat mosque to the cemetery. But when a police car entered the vicinity of the cemetery as the proceedings were taking place, some mourners began hurling rocks at the police officers. According to the police the vehicle was surrounded and the officers' lives were in danger.
When shots were fired in the air and firecrackers were set off, the officers responded by firing teargas and reinforcements were rushed in to evacuate the policemen to safety.
Medical teams treated 15 mourners. A 45-year-old man died. Another sustained moderate injuries to his limbs, the rest with light injuries. They were all evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.
A general strike that included schools was declared in the Negev’s Arab communities as a sign of solidarity. Arab communities in the center of the country and the Galilee announced a solidarity strike that did not include schools, as decided by the National Committee for the Heads of Arab Local Authorities.
In a statement, the local authority heads called Ja’ar’s killing “cold-blooded murder that proves the police’s aggression and the policy of light trigger fingers when it comes to Arab citizens.”
In the statement, the local authorities and Arab parties called on people to go to Rahat and attend Ja’ar’s funeral. Rahat officials have declared a three-day mourning period and called for the establishment of an investigative committee that includes a retired Arab judge.
The autopsy had been delayed because a Palestinian pathologist was delayed at the Jenin checkpoint and could not immediately enter Israel.
Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krenawi said that after the prayer service at a mosque, the funeral procession would set out for a cemetery outside the city. He and the police had agreed that officers would not be present so as to prevent any clashes, Krenawi said.
Members of Ja’ar’s family said Ja’ar had not had any problems with the police; he was not wanted for questioning or detention.
Israel Police said that when officers entered the neighborhood they were hit by stones and sticks; they then fired into the air. Ja’ar was then shot in the stomach before being pronounced dead in the hospital.
The police also said that Southern District Police Commander Major General Yoram Halevy has appointed a committee of inquiry to examine the events at the funeral in which police officers “were attacked with rocks and stones that were thrown at a police car.” According to the statement, the police do not intend to investigate the conduct of police officers at the funeral.