Clashes broke out on Sunday between the Israel Police and residents of Kalansua during the demolition of a house – home to a family of 11 people – about a mile away in the neighboring town of Taibeh. The house is one of seven built on land zoned for agriculture.
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Five people were arrested, four on suspicion of forbidden assembly and the fifth on suspicion of calling for the illegal assembly.
According to eyewitnesses, dozens of policemen came to the demolition site, accompanied by two “skunk” trucks that spray foul-smelling liquid to disperse rioters. Several dozen Kalansua residents gathered to protest the demolition. The residents say that the police started to disperse them with stun grenades, tear gas and the smelly liquid even though they were not disruptive or violent.
Taibeh and Kalansua residents complained that they were humiliated by the police behavior, saying that policemen walked through the streets with their guns drawn and pointed them at residents they stopped to check.
“People there were hit by policemen only because they answered back or photographed what happened there on their cell phones,” said one resident. “The police came ready for battle; they had their weapons drawn, they were wearing ski masks so we couldn’t identify them, and had no name tags. It was simply war.”
Until the summer of 2014, the skunk trucks were only used to disperse demonstrators in the West Bank. Since then it has been widely used to break up demonstrations in East Jerusalem, in neighborhoods like Isawiya and Abu Tor. Police have been criticized for using the liquid, whose smell makes being in the area intolerable.
The demolition angered many in Arab society, who said it is connected to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks that the five-year plan for increased government funding in the Arab community “cannot go forward without dealing with law enforcement there.”
“Someone was eager to demolish, no matter what, despite all the efforts and the new plan,” said MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint Arab List), a Taibeh resident. “I hope it’s not because Netanyahu, [Likud MK Yariv] Elkin and [Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev] Elkin conditioned implementing the economic plan on home demolitions.
“The government stops Arab communities from filing master plans to meet the need of the population and destroys their houses when they are forced to build on their own private land,” added Tibi.
Taibeh officials have been working on a new master plan meant to regulate construction in the town. Over the past two weeks Mayor Shawa Mansour has met with Tibi and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as with the head of the agency responsible for, Avigdor Yitzhaki, to show them the plans.
Mansour told Haaretz that during the years the town was governed by Interior Ministry-appointed officials, they “were in no hurry to carry out demolition orders.” He noted he’d been in office only two months and, “suddenly bulldozers are at work despite the many appeals. That means that someone exerted pressure for demolition at this particular time.”
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) called the demolition a “mark of Cain.”
As the demolition was being carried out, Lod District Court Judge Achikam Stoler rejected a request the house’s owner, a Lod resident, to stay the demolition, ruling that there was no point because the order had already been executed.
The Taibeh municipality has been working on a new master plan meant to regulate construction at the site. Over the past two weeks Mansour has met with Tibi and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as with the head of the agency responsible for state-owned housing, Avigdor Yitzhaki, to show them the plans.
The planning branch in the Finance Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.