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(photo credit: AP)
Israeli Arab leaders called Saturday for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza as thousands of Israeli Arabs around the country took to the streets to protest.
Following the assault on Gaza, outbreaks of rioting were being reported in east Jerusalem on Saturday.
"It's a war crime," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) "I can't accept the logic that panic in the streets of Sderot is worth 200 killed in Gaza as a consequence of firing from one side or another."
Tibi said he could not accept that logic particularly when Israel had repeatedly violated the six-month cease-fire that expired December 19 by not opening the crossings and by conducting military strikes in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. "This war crime needs to stop, and we need to return to the tahadiya [calm] to save lives both here and there," he said.
Tibi said UAL members participated in spontaneous protests Saturday in the cities of Taiba, Sakhnin, and the Galilee village of Ibillin. In Nazareth, some 3,000 protesters participated in a protest march Saturday evening organized by the Nazareth Democratic Front. Marchers demanded a halt to "all the massacres of the Israeli army in Gaza, second for the unity of the Palestinian people and third, a critique on the silence of the Arab regimes," said Abir Kopty, a Nazareth city councilwoman from the NDF, who helped organize the march.
"You see the silence of the international community and the Arab world, except for condemning, and calling for it to stop, but there are no concrete actions to stop the Israeli attack on Gaza," she said after the march. "The only thing you can do is to go out to the streets and demonstrate."
A protest was also held in Umm el-Fahm, while another - organized by Jewish and Arab peace activists - took place in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the Higher Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel called on Israeli Arabs to hold protests against "Israeli aggression wherever it happens."
The Higher Committee was meeting late Saturday night to create a plan of action vis-a-vis the Israeli military operation.
MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) accused Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak - both candidates for prime minister in the upcoming elections - of "using Palestinian blood for political aims."
"We are part of the Palestinian people," he said. "We can't be silent about a situation like this when there are innocent people that are killed in cold blood."
Barakei called on the government to stop its attack and on the international community to do something "to stop the massacre of the Palestinian people."
"It's clear that these attacks will not bring quiet or calm, only negotiations will," he said.
On Saturday evening, a 22-year-old Arab ran over a policeman in east Jerusalem, lightly injuring him in what police called a terrorist attack.
The assailant, who has a criminal record, was arrested on the scene, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
It was the fourth vehicular terror attack in the capital this year, and came as hundreds of Arab residents of east Jerusalem pelted police with stones in several locations in protest of the IAF strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
According to an initial police investigation, the driver intentionally ran over the policeman near the Augusta Victoria Hospital as he exited his patrol car, after having watched the police patrol from his own vehicle for several minutes.
The victim managed to overcome the attacker with the help of his colleague. He was then evacuated to Hadassah-University Hospital on Mount Scopus.
More than a dozen rioters were arrested.
In one incident, dozens of masked teens from the Isawiya quarter clashed with police after trying to enter the adjacent French Hill neighborhood, police said.
The rioters, who were forcibly dispersed by police, threw stones at a gas station on the edge of the Jewish neighborhood.
A large police force was positioned in the area from early afternoon, some officers on rooftops.
Later in the evening, three firebombs were thrown at police on the edge of Isawiya, police said. Also on Saturday night, a firebomb was hurled at a Jewish home in the mixed Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu-Tor. There were no injuries or damage reported in the attack, according to police.
Palestinians in the West Bank also demonstrated their opposition to the IAF attacks.
In Bethlehem, municipal officials switched off Christmas lights in protest. "In solidarity with Gaza, we turned off the lights," said Mayor Victor Batarseh. The colorful Christmas lights usually remain lit until mid-January.
In Ramallah, just a few hundred meters from the home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, club-wielding PA policemen in white helmets formed a cordon to keep back about 200 Palestinians throwing rocks at an IDF checkpoint. PA firefighters doused burning tires. On the city's main streets, angry residents raised the Palestinian flag as they marched through town, shouting, "We will defend you, Gaza!"
In Hebron, dozens of youths hurled stones at soldiers, who lobbed back percussion and tear gas grenades in response. At one point, PA security forces tried to step in, but to no avail.
From mosque minarets in Jenin, Palestinians called for strikes and more demonstrations.
AP contributed to this report