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11 arrested in overnight raids after police, residents clash in Arab town

Police say suspects held for attacking cops; Deir al-Asad council says police inappropriately burst into wedding, shot innocent man; officers say were responding to gunfire reports

Two police cars are set on fire in the town of Deir al-Asad in northern Israel amid a clash between residents and officers, on June 19, 2021 (Screenshot/Twitter)
Two police cars are set on fire in the town of Deir al-Asad in northern Israel amid a clash between residents and officers, on June 19, 2021 (Screenshot/Twitter)

Police said Sunday that 11 suspects were arrested in overnight raids after violence between police and residents a day earlier in the northern Arab town of Deir al-Asad left one man seriously injured and four officers lightly hurt.

Police said in a statement that the suspects were held in connection with the assaults on the officers, and that further arrests were expected.

The clashes occurred after officers responded to reports of gunfire during a wedding on Saturday afternoon. Celebratory gunfire is a common phenomenon at some celebrations in the Arab community.

According to the police, shots were fired during the clash on Saturday, resulting in the serious injury of a 43-year-old resident of the area. Local witnesses claimed the man, Muhammad Amar, was shot by police.

Four police officers were lightly wounded, one of them hit by a rock thrown from a building, and two police cars were set alight amid the clash.

The Deir al-Asad council convened Saturday night for an emergency discussion following the events, and declared that police officers had inappropriately burst into a wedding.

“Police officers unacceptably burst into a large wedding that was being held in a dignified and proper manner,” the council said in a statement, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

“Following the use of live fire by police officers, an innocent resident of the village was injured, a special and peace-loving person who just wanted to calm the situation and maintain the dignity of the police officers,” the statement read. “We call for officials to carry out an in-depth examination of the conduct of the police.”

Jaber Asdi, a relative of Amar, criticized the conduct of the police in an interview with Channel 12 news. “[Amar] is a respected travel agent in the whole area, there is no situation where he posed any threat or danger to the police,” Asdi said.

“It should be emphasized that everyone knows there was no shooting at the wedding. And the police can’t just burst into weddings — even if there was gunfire, the police have methods to deal with the situation,” Asdi said. “When there is gunfire, the groom is told to come to the police [station] and that is how the incident is handled. They do not just charge into the wedding.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called the events “very serious,” saying “there is no justification for any sort of violence like that seen today.” He said he had asked the police chief to prepare a quick report on the chain of events and present it to him within 24 hours.

Barlev also praised residents who defended police officers while they were attacked during the unrest.

Israel’s new minister of public security, Omer Barlev, arrives for a group photo of the newly sworn-in government at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the Ynet news site, Barlev’s response — which included ordering an inquiry into the use of live fire by police — angered some police officials, who accused the new police minister of being insufficiently supportive of them.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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