Police Use Force to Disperse Hundreds Protesting Murder in Israeli Arab City

Jack Khoury
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Protesters demanding action over the murder of Arab citizens, in Nazareth, December 19, 2020.
Protesters demanding action over the murder of Arab citizens, in Nazareth, December 19, 2020.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Jack Khoury

The police used smoke grenades, tear gas and water cannons on Wednesday to disperse a protest march attended by hundreds of people at the Kafr Qara junction in Wadi Ara, following the funeral of Sliman Naziye Masarwa, 25, who was killed by gunfire in Kafr Qara on Tuesday.

After the funeral, demonstrators marched toward the main highway in Wadi Ara, and proceeded to block the intersection. The police condoned the action for one hour before starting to disperse the crowd by force, and dozens of young men responded by throwing stones. It was subsequently reported that several arrests were made.

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“After the marchers started throwing stones at police officers, special forces began dispersing the march using different methods. The police will continue to enable free expression, but will not allow public disturbances, rioting and vandalism,” said the police.

In the wake of the murder, the town announced a general strike Wednesday and Thursday. Masarwa’s funeral was attended by thousands, including Knesset members and public representatives, as well as leaders of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee.

The chairman of the Joint List, lawmaker Ayman Odeh, referred to the dispersal of the demonstrators: “They’re strong when confronting protesters and weak in confronting criminals. Instead of catching criminals and murderers, the police are busy supressing protests, leaving Israel’s Arab citizens to die.”

A police investigation is ongoing into the incident that left Masarwa dead and sent another Palestinian man from the West Bank to a hospital in Hadera with a gunshot wound, where he is still in serious condition. For now, the investigation shows that the two men were shot in the street.

Masarwa, the son of a former head of the local council, Naziye Masarwa, is the sixth person to have been murdered in Arab communities since the beginning of this year. As of December 19 last year, the number of 2020 murder cases in Israel's Arab community was 95, the highest figure in at least 20 years, according to Haaretz's tally.

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