Thousands rally in northern Israel in the wake of demolitions in Umm al-Hiran

12:00 Jan 21 2017 Ar'ara

Scene. Published by Maan News

Protesters stand facing Israeli security forces during a demonstration against home demolitions in Arab neighborhoods, in the Arab Israeli city of Ar'Ara, north of Israel, January 21, 2017. Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP Published by Haaretz

AR'ARA (Ma'an) -- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Saturday in the town of Arara in northern Israel, in the wake of a demolition campaign in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday, when Israeli police shot local math teacher Yacoub Abu al-Qian to death under widely-contested circumstances.

Protesters caused traffic jams and briefly blocked Highway 65 in the Wadi Ara region, with Israeli police suppressing the crowds with stun grenades and other protest dispersal means, according to reports.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List coalition that represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Israeli Knesset told reporters in Arara that the rally was held "to show loyalty to the martyr Abu al-Qian," and to voice condemnation of racism and the killing Palestinian citizens.

While Israeli police have claimed Abu al-Qian was carrying out a vehicle attack when he was killed, numerous eyewitnesses testimonies and investigations from Israeli media and NGOs have said that police opened fire on the man while he was driving normally near the clashes posing no threat to anyone, which caused him to accelerate and lose control of the vehicle, resulting in the death of an Israeli policeman and the injury of several others.

Hours later, Israeli authorities carried out the demolition of more than dozen structures belonging to Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel, including a number of structures that were owned by Abu al-Qian.

The demolition campaign came a week after at least 10 Palestinian homes were razed to the ground in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel.

Odeh called for an investigation to be opened into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and Israeli police “for their decision to stop negotiations with the people of Umm al-Hiran and for all the events that occurred at the evacuation," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.

He said he held police responsible for the killing and demanded that Abi al-Qian's body be returned to the family immediately, as numerous preconditions have been set by Israeli authorities for the body’s release.

"Minister Gilad Erdan, who did not miss one chance to stand before a microphone and lie on Wednesday, while inciting and igniting the flames, should resign immediately," Odeh reportedly said.

Odeh, who had traveled to Umm al-Hiran Wednesday along with a number of other members of the Joint List to protest the demolitions, was shot in the head by police with a sponge-tipped bullet amid the clashes.

He also released a video on his Facebook page Saturday ahead of the rally in Arara, where he is shown with bandage on his forehead covering the gunshot wound.

"We know that there are 50,000 houses without licenses as a result of Israel’s planning policies,” he said in the video.

“This means demolitions will not stop, but will rather reach more houses in Israeli villages and cities. For that reason this demonstration, attended by thousands, should be understood as a resonant cry of a people who want to live in their homeland in dignity."

Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told reporters during the rally that the thousands of demonstrators were sending a clear message to the Israeli government that Palestinian citizens of Israel “would not yield to the systematic policy of home demolitions and incitement imposed by the Netanyahu government" against them.

Ayman Odeh’s spokeswoman Reut Mor confirmed to Ma’an via telephone that Israeli police were firing stun grenades at crowds in Arara, and said that some unconfirmed reports emerged of sponge-tipped bullets being fired at protesters.

While the official demonstration had ended, she said that thousands of demonstrators remained in the area, and that “many people” were on their way to join the crowds as of early Saturday evening.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that police had "allowed" the demonstration in Arara, on the condition that demonstrators did not obstruct traffic on Route 65, and on the condition that they did not "breach the law."

"However, a group of demonstrators blocked the main road ignoring police orders prompting police officers to remove them without detentions. The demonstration is going on under police control," she added.

Thousands in Northern Israel Protest Home Demolitions in Arab Communities

Demonstrators denounce the killing of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, the driver of the vehicle that ran over police officer Erez Levi, during clashes in Bedouin village. Umm al-Hiran victim shot in chest, knee, bled to death slowly.

by Jack Khoury and Noa Shpigel for Haaretz
Jan 21, 2017 4:58 PM

Thousands of people demonstrated in Wadi Ara in northern Israel yesterday to protest last week’s home demolitions in two Arab communities and the shooting death by police of a Bedouin man whose car hit and killed an officer during a protest in one of the towns on Wednesday.

Israel Channel 10 News reported on Friday that initial results from the autopsy of the Bedouin man, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, found that he was shot in the chest and the right knee, possibly before his car accelerated into a group of police officers. Police Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi died after being struck by the car.

The bullet that hit Abu al-Kiyan in the chest struck a major artery, causing him to bleed out within 20 to 30 minutes. According to the report, the coroners determined that with prompt medical care, Abu al-Kiyan could have survived his injuries.

Seven protesters suffered minor injuries yesterday when police used stun grenades, as well as stink spray, to disperse hundreds of protesters blocking a highway intersection near Arara. A photographer and a Magen David Adom paramedic were injured by sponge bullets. 

Yesterday’s protest was one of the steps decided on by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in a meeting on Thursday. The committee also decided to rebuild all 15 structures that had been demolished in Umm al-Hiran and to organize a convoy today from Kalansua to government offices in Jerusalem tomorrow.

The police maintain that Abu al-Kiyan deliberately rammed his car into the group of police officers. But eyewitnesses say he lost control of his car and drove into the group only after he was shot by police. A video shot from a police helicopter and released by the police seems to support the eyewitness accounts.

On Friday, Abu al-Kiyan’s family petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the immediate release of his body for burial.

Also on Friday, Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Natan Zlotchover overturned a decision by the city’s Magistrate’s Court and extended by three days police custody for two men, ages 20 and 27, accused of punching policemen during the clashes at Umm al-Hiran.

Magistrate’s Court Judge Zvi Forer had released the two to house arrest “to help lower the flames.” Zlotchover said he believed keeping the two behind bars would send a clear message that violence would not be tolerated.

Some of the protesters in Wadi Ara yesterday carried signs with slogans calling Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan a war criminal. Marchers stepped off from Arara town hall and walked to buildings marked for demolition by the state.

Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh called for Erdan’s resignation and the appointment of an official committee of inquiry “to uncover the lies of Netanyahu, Erdan and the police.”

Referring to the autopsy report, Odeh said: “The truth as we stated it all along has finally come to light. The victim Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, a father and a teacher, was shot by the police and bled to death because the police intentionally prevented him from receiving medical care.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) said: “The thousands of protesters here are sending a clear message from the Arab public to Netanyahu — we will not give in to a policy of demolition and incitement.” He called for Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich to resign their posts and to stop “the false accusations against the victim Yakub Abu al-Kiyan.” Tibi also demanded an apology from Erdan and Alsheich the Abu al-Kiyan family and the public.

Yael Noy, a Jewish resident of Western Galilee, said she had come to yesterday’s demonstration to show solidarity with the Arab community. “They can’t fight this war without us,” she said. 
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