police detain masked Arab protester.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Masked youths hurled rocks and dodged stun grenades fired by police throughout Monday afternoon in the Galilee Arab town of Umm el-Fahm, the heartland of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Three policemen were lightly wounded in the clashes, and three stone-throwers were arrested.
Tensions were high throughout the day in the Wadi Ara region before the disturbances erupted and hooded youths squared off with Border Police in black riot gear, deployed at the town’s entrance to prevent rioters from blocking off the nearby Route 65 linking Hadera to Afula.
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“We are prepared for every scenario,” Northern District head Cmdr. Shimon Koren told The Jerusalem Post
as he briefed his officers before the disturbances broke out.
A white police helicopter hovered overhead as police took up their positions, and a group of youths waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and burned tires further down the road.
“If it turns out Sheikh [Raed] Salah [head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement] is injured, there will be big problems here and across the Arab areas,” said Ibrahim Mahajane, a young resident of the town, as he looked on the unfolding disturbances.
“Salah is our leader, not just here, but for all the Arabs in Israel. I believe Israel set out to kill him,” he said.
“But this isn’t just about Salah,” he added. “It’s about what happened to the Gaza boats. Why couldn’t they let them bring aid to Gaza?”
He said he hoped “things will be calm, but I doubt they will be.”
Minutes later, several volleys of large stones were hurled by the
youths at police. A number of rocks were also thrown at the press.
defended themselves with large shields and absorbed volley after volley
for several minutes before a police jeep suddenly lunged forward at the
stone-throwers, with riot police following in a sprint.
The surprised stone-throwers retreated into the town’s streets, but were pursued by the officers and dodged stun grenades.
masked stone-thrower was wrestled to the ground and arrested,
handcuffed and bundled into a police vehicle. Police later said the man
was 24 years old and had been taken in for questioning.
friends, who had gotten away, then regrouped further from the police
and began hurling rocks, chanting, “Allahu Akbar,” from a row of homes
above the town’s entrance. Border Police fired tear gas canisters to
disperse the crowds.
“We will allow protests, but we will show
zero tolerance toward any disturbances of the peace,” Koren said in a
statement on Monday evening, as intermittent rioting continued in Umm
Nearby, on Route 77, Arab youths burned tires and
temporarily blocked off the highway. Police reopened the artery to
traffic shortly afterward.
Police and the Prisons Service
remained at their highest state of alert on Monday following an
evaluation by police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Public Security
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Aharonovitch, who had earlier
canceled a planned appearance at an anti-violence march in the mixed
city of Lod, said, “We will do all that is required to safeguard public
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