Village of Abu Snan in Western Galile.
(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
One man was critically wounded, five others seriously hurt and 14 lightly-to-moderately wounded Friday night when a brawl between Druse and Muslims in the northern village of Abu Sinan spun out of control.
Police reinforcements from across the district streamed into the town for hours and, at one point, police dispatched a helicopter to the skies overhead. Police later said the reinforcements would remain in the village for the near future and that district commanders had begun meeting with local leaders in an attempt to keep the peace.
Police referred to the incident as “a grave occurrence in which many civilians who live together as neighbors were harmed” and called on Druse and Muslim residents of the town to act responsibly and work to prevent further fighting.
By Saturday morning, police said, quiet had returned to the village.
The Coastal District Police first reported the melee shortly after midnight Friday, saying they received a call concerning at least 10 wounded in a local brawl in Abu Sinan and that they sent reinforcements of special patrol units to the area. By Saturday afternoon, the number of people treated following the melee had climbed to 43 of whom 20 remain hospitalized.
Medical personnel said dozens of those admitted to the hospital suffered shrapnel wounds and lacerations during the fracas, in which knives, sticks and, reportedly, even a fragmentation grenade were used. The man who was most seriously wounded was hospitalized with severe head injuries, and most of the lightly injured were treated for abrasions, said Dr. Masad Barhoum, director of the Western Galilee Medical Center.
Various media reports said the brawl was sparked by a fight in a local school after Muslim high school students showed up to class in keffiyehs and began protesting about the security situation in Israel. The demonstration reportedly sparked arguments with Druse students, eventually escalating into Friday night’s brawl.
Classes will be canceled in Abu Sinan schools Sunday on the recommendation of district police.
Ibrahim, a spokesman for local council head Nuhad Mishlav, said Saturday the brawl had nothing to do with tension between Druse and Muslims and that relations between the communities are sound. Ibrahim said the background to the brawl was a fight earlier in the week between a Druse and Muslim local man, as well insults traded between Druse and Muslim youth on Facebook in recent days. The incident with the students in keffiyehs, he said, was unrelated to the brawl.
Police, nonetheless, are examining whether the clash was linked to tension between the two communities and are preparing should the clashes spread to other mixed Muslim- Druse towns.
Tension between the two communities is believed to have been sparked by recent violence between Arabs and the police and army, including the killing of a Kafr Kana man by police a week ago.
The Druse are heavily represented in the state security services and law enforcement, in particular the Border Police, and videos and online posts about Druse policing the recent riots in Jerusalem have circulated widely.
Abu Sinan is home to 13,045 residents, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The population is majority Muslim, but the town also is home to thousands of Druse and a community of Christian Arabs.