Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on lawmakers to refrain from inciting violence Wednesday, hours after a deadly incident during an operation to raze homes in a Bedouin village led to fierce clashes between police and protesters, including several Arab Knesset members.
Policeman Erez Levi was killed early Wednesday morning after being run over by a car driven by a man identified as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, who was killed by police fire.
Israeli officials called the incident a terror attack; activists at the scene said the driver lost control of the car after being shot or was fleeing the police fire when he hit Levi. Aerial footage appeared to show police shooting before the crash.
Netanyahu met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Chief Roni Alsheich for an update on the clashes sparked by the incident, his office said.
In a statement after the meeting, Netanyahu said Levi was “murdered,” grouping the car-ramming with terror attacks in Israel and abroad.
“This is the second-ramming attack in the last few days. We are fighting this murderous phenomenon, which has struck both Israel and the world.”
While police and other officials claimed they had found evidence that Abu Al-Qia’an had been radicalized, Netanyahu made no mention of it.
But the prime minister called for Knesset members to maintain calm, as protests were planned across Israel Wednesday evening and a general strike in the Arab community was called for Thursday.
“I ask everyone, especially members of the Knesset, to be responsible, to stop fanning emotions and inciting toward violence,” he said in a statement. “The police are operating on the ground with authority and nobody has the right to interfere with their mission.”
He also said the home demolitions would continue, despite the fierce protests against the plan to move hundreds of Bedouin families off the land and to a nearby city.
“Not only will this incident not deter us, it will strengthen us. It will strengthen our determination to enforce the law everywhere,” he said.
Police had descended on the village early Wednesday to evacuate and demolish illegally constructed buildings. They fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.
Among those protesting Wednesday morning were several Arab lawmakers, including Joint List head Ayman Odeh who was injured in the clash. Several others were also injured in the clashes.
After the deadly car-ramming, most of the members of the Joint List appeared at the site to decry the razings and the killings.
The Arab Higher Committee called for a national strike of the Arab sector in Israel Thursday to protest the house demolitions, according to Joint (Arab) List MK Aida Touma-Sliman.
Businesses will close across the country but children will go to school for three hours to learn about the demolitions, Touma-Sliman said.