16 wounded in Umm el-Fahm march

Deputy police chief among hurt in protests as right-wing activists march through Arab town.

umm el-fahm march 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
umm el-fahm march 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
At first, it appeared as if the far-Right march on the outskirts of Umm el-Fahm could defy fears and end peacefully, as police flashed messages on beepers reporting a surprising calm during the start of the 800-meter procession. But shortly after 10:30 a.m., several waves of rock-throwing and violent clashes by the town's residents began, prompting riot police to respond with stun grenades and tear gas. Several undercover police agents mixed in with the mob acted, pouncing on rioters, and arrested 10 suspects. The suspects were "endangering lives" and had "taken part in disturbances," said police sources. Police kept to a strict policy of using non-lethal crowd dispersal methods to defuse the event and prevent it from spiraling out of control. Some 2,500 officers flooded the area, forming a human shield around the approximately 100 marchers and their leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel. Sixteen policemen, including deputy police chief Insp.-Gen. Shahar Ayalon, were hurt in the clashes. Ayalon required hospitalization, but none of the injuries were said to be serious. "We expected this," police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen told The Jerusalem Post. Cohen was speaking at an event held near Rehovot to evaluate the work carried out by the police's Central Unit. He said police had made preparations for the eventuality of riots spreading to other Arab areas in the country, a scenario that, by Tuesday evening, appeared unlikely. Cohen added that Arab Israeli communal leaders appeared to recognize that the march was like a "passing wind," and expressed hope that violence would not spread. "We are securing this democratic march, which was approved by the police and the High Court," he said. Northern Police District head Cmdr. Shimon Koren praised the conduct of officers, saying that "determination and large forces thwarted attempts to disrupt the march." Koren said his officers had "responded immediately to all disturbances that threatened the safety of others."