Arab Sector Holds Emergency Meeting After Highway Protests

In the wake of violent protests between Israeli-Arab residents of Tira and police, the National Monitoring Committee of the Arab sector in Israel announced Tuesday an emergency meeting to discuss steps to protest the paving of the Trans-Israel highway in the Arab cities of Tira and Taibe.

Shwiki Hatib, the head of the Monitoring Committee, said that if results are not reached at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning with the head of the Prime Minister's Bureau Uri Shani, residents of the area will continue their acts of protests. The demonstrators intend to situate themselves on the disputed land, located southeast of Tira, and wait for the results of the meeting.

Hatib said that aside from himself, those participating in Wednesday's meeting would be Shani, Minister Salah Tarif, Tira mayor Halil Kasem, and Taibe Mayor Isam Masarva. The participants will attempt to reach a reasonable compensation agreement for the landowners. Hatib said that the landowners are demanding that the agreement meet all of the conditions agreed upon in the past by former finance minister Avraham Shochat, according to which the residents will be compensated with alternate lands of equal value.

The demonstration in Tira turned violent as Tira residents and Arab MKs clashed with police. Fifteen protesters and three police officers were lightly injured. The Israeli-Arab residents of Tira protested the building of the road on lands expropriated from them, before the signing of compensation agreements.

Arab members of the Knesset and other officials tried to stop the clashes in the Israeli-Arab town of Tira, north of Kfar Sava, where construction work on the Trans-Israel Highway was carried out. Police Commissioner Aharonishky also arrived in Tira to help stop the violence.

About 1,000 residents of Tira and Taibe participated in the demonstration, as well as Jewish and Arab environmentalists. The demonstrators tried to block the bulldozers with their bodies, and 400 members of the police are using truncheons in an effort to disperse the demonstrators from the area.