A demonstration in Nazareth turned violent Thursday night as protesters clashed with security forces in the predominantly Arab northern city.
Israel Police officers made dozens of arrests in an attempt to disperse the rioters, Channel 10 news reported.
Over 200 people took part in the protest, according to police estimates, and it descended into rioting when protesters set fire to tires and garbage cans and hurled stones at police. Earlier Thursday, police had reportedly attempted to prevent buses of would-be demonstrators from reaching Nazareth in hopes of heading off potential violence.
Arab Israeli protests in Lod and Jaffa the past two nights have also turned violent, with rocks being thrown at police in both cases.
The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, said Thursday morning in Nazareth that his organization intends to respond to what he called “continued Israeli escalation” against the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“We have a package of plans ready be unleashed immediately,” Salah said.
He was speaking at a press conference convened by the Islamic Movement attended by representatives of the Joint (Arab) List party including MKs Ahmed Tibi and Hanin Zoabi and former head of the Hadash party, Mohammed Baraket.
Speaking in Arabic, Salah called on Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to stand up against “Israeli aggression.”
“Incitement and escalation are the very existence of the occupation in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque, and the best solution is to remove the occupation,” he said. “To die for al-Aqsa is a great honor. They cannot scare us with jail or deportation.”
Salah blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the recent escalation in violence, and said that he would be responsible for further attacks.
“Any future action will be a direct result of the occupation policy of Netanyahu’s arrogant leadership,” Salah said.
Netanyahu later hit back at Salah, accusing his Islamic Movement of incitement, saying the government would adopt “aggressive steps” to combat the organization’s aggression.
In March 2014 Salah was sentenced to eight months in prison with another eight months as a suspended sentence for incitement to violence, over a 2007 sermon in which he called for violent measures in support of the Palestinian cause.
The charges related to a speech Salah made to hundreds of his followers and foreign media outlets in East Jerusalem. “Now they must fulfill their obligation to assist the Palestinian people,” Salah stated then. “Now it is their duty to initiate an Islamic intifada from sea to sea, in support of the holy Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque.”
From 2003 to 2005, Salah, the former mayor of Umm al-Fahm, served a prison sentence on charges of funding Hamas and being in contact with an Iranian intelligence agent. In 2010, he was held for five months on charges of assaulting a police officer and inciting violence. Salah was also a key figure in the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in 2010, and has repeatedly called for the end of Israeli rule in Jerusalem.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.