Death of local Arab leads to violent protests in Wadi Ara

Violent protests erupted on Thursday afternoon on Route 65 along Wadi Ara in the North after police shot and killed a local Arab. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra has pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Nadim Milhem, which are disputed. The police said he was shot after he pulled a stolen hand gun on officers during a search of his house in Wadi al-Kassab in the Arara region. Milhem, who was 28 and unmarried, was suspected of possessing weapons. However, Nadim's cousin Azhar Milhem insisted "it's not true, it's a lie." After the shooting, dozens of local residents gathered by the highway, which connects Afula with Hadera, and hurled stones at the police and passing cars. Police dispersed the crowd using water cannon after five policemen were hospitalized with light injuries and two demonstrators were arrested. Following the incidents, Ezra and police chiefs met with local leaders, residents and representatives of Milhem's family, with the minister saying he would instruct the Police Investigative Department to launch the probe, the Internal Security Ministry said. The minister asked local leaders to prevent the stone throwing and said he and residents would cooperate to continue the coexistence between Jews and Arabs. The ministry quoted the representatives of the family as saying that they were law-abiding and would not lend a hand to violence or to the blocking of roads, and that they had faith in the ability of the authorities to investigate the incident. The police commanders said they would do everything to continue the existing good relations. In disputing the police version of events, Nadim's family members claimed that they saw him sleeping in the house, and that the police had kicked him and beaten him to wake him up. "He suddenly awoke and jumped up. It's a small room and he ran in the direction of the door. One of the policemen cocked his gun and gave him a bullet in the chest," said Husein Milhem, a relative. Nadim's cousin Azhar, a trained medic who was at the scene, said he asked to treat his cousin, but instead the police threatened to shoot him, saying: "You will be the second one." He added that the police beat and handcuffed Azhar and Nadim's brother Nabeila, but after 20 minutes they freed Azhar and allowed him to treat his wounded cousin and call an ambulance. However, the police disputed the family's version of events, saying they called the emergency services and the family requested to take Nadim to the hospital. The police escorted the car until they came to Route 65, where he was transferred to the emergency services, said the spokeswoman. Abir Kopty, a spokeswoman at the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens, sharply criticized the security forces. "The police continue their hostile and murderous treatment of Arab citizens. Nadim Milhem was the 31st Arab killed in the last five years by the Israeli security forces," she said. Relations between Jews and Israeli Arabs, especially in the North, have been volatile since the violent incidents in October 2000, when 13 Arabs were killed by the security forces during rioting.