Protester killed, cruisers damaged as Kafr Qassem residents riot against police

Protester killed, cruisers damaged as Kafr Qassem residents riot against police

Rioters attack officers with stones, set police cars on fire in central Israel city after arrest of local man; investigation launched into shooting death

Police cars set on fire in Kafr Kassem on June 6, 2017. (screen capture: YouTube)
Police cars set on fire in Kafr Kassem on June 6, 2017. (screen capture: YouTube)

One protester was killed as guards opened fire on a riot outside a police station in the Israeli Arab city of Kafr Qassem early Tuesday morning.

Three police cars were set alight, other cruisers were pelted with stones, and officers outside the station were attacked by rock-throwing protesters as hundreds demonstrated against police overnight.

At least two police officers were reportedly lightly injured in the riot.

The protest began as residents of the central Israel city gathered outside a police station to protest the arrest of a local man, adding to already raised tensions between police and locals in recent weeks.

Police said initial reports of the station being set alight were incorrect.

Officials said in an investigation was launched into the death of the protester, who was shot by a guard protecting the station and pronounced dead after being rushed to Beilinson Hospital in nearby Petah Tikva.

“An initial investigation suggests that a local security guard at the police station who feared for his life opened fire on the protesters,” police said on a statement.

He was named by a spokesperson for the Joint List Knesset faction as Mahmoud Taha, 27.

Local residents reported that rioters had tried to break into the station as officers tried to repel them by firing their weapons into the air.

The riot was quelled after reinforcements were called to the city from other districts and helped to disperse the protesters, police said.

They added that law enforcement was in constant contact with local officials to try and calm tensions.

Police said officers manning a checkpoint and checking licenses attempted to arrest a local man at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, after they saw he was wanted in an investigation.

According to a police statement, the man resisted arrest and some 50 others also attacked officers, managing to briefly escape. After the man and another protester were caught and taken away, “hundreds of protesters began to riot at a police station in the city hall, in which there was a single officer and several security guards.

Tensions between police and residents of the city have been brewing in recent months over a spate of unresolved murders and a general sense of helplessness amid an increased violent crime rate.

Taha’s fathered accused police of “having a light trigger finger, especially against Arabs,” and of murdering his son, the Ynet news website reported.

Last week, two Kafr Qassem residents were killed in a double murder that shook the city. The pair was gunned down after exiting a mosque.

That same day, a total of five people from the Israeli-Arab community were killed across the country, including a man and woman in the Jaffa.

The Kfar Qassem murders were the sixth such incident in the city in just four months.

All the murders are believed to be criminally motivated.

Kafr Qassem residents have criticized police’s inability to crack down on crime in the city and have set up a civilian defense guard, a move the authorities have opposed, Haaretz reported.

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