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Rioters close road near Taibe as Arab businesses shut down

Police disperse protesters who were burning tires; further demonstrations expected later Sunday

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Rioters seen throwing rocks at Israeli border policemen at the entrance to the Arab village Kfar Kanna in northern Israel on November 8, 2014.  (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Rioters seen throwing rocks at Israeli border policemen at the entrance to the Arab village Kfar Kanna in northern Israel on November 8, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Riots near the northern Arab town of Taibe forced the closure of a major road, Route 444, on Sunday morning until police arrived to disperse the crowds.

Protesters burned tires and police arrested an 18-year-old suspected of involvement in the disturbances as police officers brought the riot to an end. The road was reopened a short while later.

In a separate incident, a Nazi swastika symbol was spray-painted Sunday morning on a bus stop at a junction in the northern Arab town of Fureidis, near Haifa.

The violence came amid outrage at the shooting of an Israeli Arab man by police in the Galilee town of Kafr Kanna on Friday night.

Thousands of Arab protesters massed Saturday afternoon and evening along the main street of Kafr Kanna, protesting what they said was an unjustified killing of 22-year-old local man Kheir Hamdan. The town mayor called the incident “murder in cold blood.”

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Arab Israeli umbrella groups ordered a general strike on Sunday in protest of the shooting, and Israel Radio reported that further demonstrations were expected in the afternoon. In line with the strike, many Arab schools and colleges shuttered their doors.

Businesses closed en masse in Sakhnin, Shfaram, Majd al-Krum, Tamra and Arabe. Partial closures were also evident in other towns. In the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Acre, most Arab businesses opened normally.

Screenshot from Panet showing a photo of Khdeir Hamdan, 20, who was shot by police November 7, 2014 during an attempted arrest.
Screenshot from Panet showing a photo of Khdeir Hamdan, 20, who was shot by police November 7, 2014 during an attempted arrest.

Police said Hamdan tried to stab an officer during an attempt to arrest a relative of his in the town, which is near Nazareth, on suspicion of throwing a stun grenade in a riot earlier in the week.

When he attempted to stab one of the officers, the police shot and critically injured him, they said. Police added that they warned the man by firing in the air, and when he didn’t desist he was shot in the chest.

A short, edited surveillance video of the incident, which surfaced Saturday on the popular Israeli-Arab news website Panet, suggested a different sequence of events.

In it, Hamdan is seen attacking a police van, banging on the windows. An officer gets out and, as Hamdan is seen retreating, shoots him. Hamdan writhes on the ground, before police drag him into the van.

He was taken to hospital where he died of his wounds.

Hamdan’s father harshly criticized the conduct of the officers involved in the incident, saying Saturday that the shooter is “not human.”

Speaking to Ynet, Rauf Hamdan said, “They could have fired tear gas at him again or shot him in the leg, but they have no feelings.”

After the video surfaced, police said they were launching an investigation into the killing, and the Israel Police’s Northern District said it would lend full cooperation to the investigation. Police commissioner Yohanan Danino called an emergency meeting on the situation.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Unit, a branch of the State Attorney’s Office that oversees the police, has launched an investigation.

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