Hundreds of Israeli Arabs demonstrated in central and northern Israel on Saturday as protests following the killing last week of a Palestinian teenager, allegedly in an act of vengeance by Jewish attackers, spread across the country.
Two policemen were reported to have been wounded in the various altercations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saturday evening with top security officials, Channel 2 reported, and instructed them to meet violence and unrest with a firm hand, adding that lawbreakers would be dealt with severely.
In the city of Nazareth, hundreds of rioters congregated on a central road, hurled rocks at policemen and burned tires.
Heavy rioting was also reported in the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel, where police said they were being pelted with stones and responded with crowd control measures.
Demonstrations also took place outside the towns of Kalanswa and Taibe following violent clashes with security forces overnight. Hundreds of people chanted slogans, hurled rocks and burned tires in several violent protests in the area. Police arrived at the scene and, after calling on the demonstrators to disperse peacefully, attempted to break up the crowds with anti-riot gear, Ynet reported.
Roads in and out of the two towns were closed off by security forces. A police spokesperson said that officers would allow “any legitimate expression of protest, but any disorderly conduct will be met firmly and decisively.”
The mayor of Kalanswa attempted to calm Arab residents, calling on them to avoid rioting and leave the streets.
An unnamed senior police source told Ynet that clashes in East Jerusalem and other parts of Israel were expected to escalate in the coming days, with “more and more people joining the riots.”
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said earlier Saturday that there would be zero tolerance for people who decided to take the law into their own hands. Aharonovitch said police would not allow violent disturbances to go unanswered and promised that justice would be served to “troublemakers.”
He also urged police to act responsibly and with restraint due to the delicate situation since the discovery on Monday of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on June 12, and the discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in a Jerusalem forest two days later in what is increasingly believed to have been a reprisal attack.
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said Saturday failed Israeli policies were to blame for the current escalation of violence.
Diskin said Arab rioting was hardly surprising when Israel was continuing to build in the West Bank while ignoring Palestinians’ statehood aspirations, rejecting the peace overtures of the Palestinian leadership, and disregarding the social gaps between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations.
“The deterioration (of the security situation) is first and foremost the result of the illusion that the government’s stagnation in every area actually keeps the situation at a standstill,” Diskin said in a Facebook post.
“The illusion that ‘Price Tag’ incidents are just a few slogans on walls and not blatant racism; the illusion that just a little more force will solve everything; the illusion that the Palestinians will put up with anything we do in the West Bank and won’t respond despite the anger and frustration and the worsening economic situation (there); the illusion that the international community won’t sanction us; that Israel’s frustrated Arab population won’t eventually head to the streets due to the lack of attention to their problems,” Diskin said.
Diskin warned that such an attitude would not hold water for long, and that the situation could deteriorate much further still.
“What’s happening in recent days could deteriorate much more, even if things calm down for a time – make no mistake,” he stated. “Because the huge internal stress will still be there. The concentration of gasoline fumes in the air will not go away, and if we don’t find a way to dilute it, the situation will become far worse.”
A preliminary autopsy finding revealed that Abu Khdeir, 16, was still alive when he was set on fire. His funeral on Friday was attended by thousands and preceded and followed violent clashes with security forces in East Jerusalem which later spread to Israeli Arab towns, including Kalanswa, Tira, Taibe and Baqa al-Gharbiya
Police arrested 31 people in connection with the rioting overnight Friday-Saturday in which hundreds of Arab Israelis burned tires and clashed with security forces in protest of the death of the Palestinian teenager.
In Kalanswa, east of Netanya and just inside Israel from the pre-1967 West Bank lines, a 20-year-old motorcycle rider was attacked by demonstrators Saturday morning while driving along the road into the town. He was hospitalized in moderate condition at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.
The incident followed several attacks on Jewish drivers by masked men on road 5614 into and out of Kalanswa, which was blocked due to burning tires overnight.
The masked men began asking drivers stuck on the road if they were Jewish. Two of the drivers who answered back in Hebrew were dragged from their cars and beaten. One of them managed to get back in his car and drive away while the other escaped on foot. His car was set on fire.
A police officer in uniform was also attacked on the road. He escaped on foot and his vehicle sustained damage.
In the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel on Saturday, several Molotov cocktails were launched at the town of Mei Ami. Police were called to the scene.
The clashes came after a day of violent demonstrations in East Jerusalem on the heels of the funeral of Abu Khdeir, whose body was found in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday in what is believed to have been a revenge killing for the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar who were laid to rest Tuesday.