Shots fired at home of Druze mayor as land dispute turns ugly

Damage caused to Wisam Nibwani’s house in Julis but no injuries; police break up riots after attack as Druze leader urges calm

Mayor Wisam Nibwani of the northern Druze town of Julis. (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Mayor Wisam Nibwani of the northern Druze town of Julis. (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Unknown gunmen fired shots and threw a grenade at the home of the mayor of the northern Druze town of Julis on Saturday night, amid a land dispute between the local council and clerics.

Wisam Nibwani and his family were at home during the incident but did not suffer any injuries. Police opened an investigation into the matter and preliminary findings determined the shooting was related to his position as head of the local council.

The attack was followed by disturbances in the town and police were dispatched to disperse rioters.

“The background [of the incident] is actually the return of the council’s control over land intended for a school. I’m sorry we came to this situation,” Nibwani asserted in response to the gunfire.

The community is embroiled in a conflict over land where the first elementary school in the town was built decades ago. The council, until recently, rented the land from a Druze religious endowment, or Waqf. The Education Ministry seeks to demolish the school and build a newer, modern facility.

The project, which has been approved, requires the land to be expropriated by the council as the state can only build the school on public lands. This has sparked protests led by local Druze clerics the past few weeks, which at times have been violent.

Sheikh Muafak Tarif, the Druze spiritual leader in Israel, condemned the violence and said the divisions could only be solved through negotiation.

“I am afraid that a mysterious hand is trying to disturb the peace and quiet that characterizes the town. I am hopeful and confident we will succeed to limit these events and restore quiet,” he said.

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