Arab Israelis strike over deadly clashes on Gaza border

Businesses and schools remain closed in solidarity with 58 Palestinians killed; Likud MK calls for outlawing body that announced action

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces near the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza Strip on May 14, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces near the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza Strip on May 14, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

An advocacy body for Arab Israelis called a general strike Tuesday to commemorate the 58 Palestinian reportedly killed in clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip the day before.

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel instructed that businesses and schools remain closed throughout the day. In addition, three demonstrations were to be held at Majd al-Krum junction in the Galilee, at Wadi Ara near Haifa, and in the southern Negev region.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said early Tuesday that 58 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were wounded in the violence, amid the biggest riots and rallies in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return.”

The violence came as tens of thousands of Palestinians attended Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Israel’s capital on Monday afternoon.

Israel said Hamas used the border protests to try to breach the fence and carry out attacks in Israeli territory. Citing Hamas sources, Hadashot TV news said 10 of the terror group’s members were killed in the clashes, including a son of its co-founder Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi. The IDF’s spokesman said Hamas deployed 12 separate terrorist “cells” to try to breach the border at different locations, and that all were rebuffed.

In Jerusalem on Monday, police arrested 14 left-wing activists who were protesting the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem near the new mission building in the capital’s Arnona neighborhood. Among the protesters were several Arab members of Knesset, some of whom scuffled with police and one of whom was pushed at one point to the ground by officers.

The detainees “did not keep to the terms that the protesters had agreed upon with police,” a police spokesperson said. Police said some chanted “Allahu Akbar” during the demonstration.

Footage from the protest near the embassy, held as Israeli leaders and senior US officials gathered inside for the dedication ceremony, showed MK Jamal Zahalka of the predominantly Arab Joint List party shoved to the ground by officers he was scuffling with. Another member of his party, MK Masud Ganaim, was also seen angrily confronting Israeli forces.

US President Donald Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as its future capital and view the Trump administration’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital as a show of pro-Israel bias.

Likud MK Amir Ohana attends a discussion in the Knesset on September 18, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In response to the Arab Israeli general strike, MK Amir Ohana of the ruling Likud party urged Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to outlaw the body that called for it.

“Once again we are witnesses to the follow up committee being a fifth column whose sole purpose is to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel,” Ohana said in a statement Tuesday. “The automatic identification with the Hamas terror group should worry any rational person.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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