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BEDUIN TAKE part in a rally marking Land Day in Umm al-Hiran in March..(Photo by: REUTERS)
Arab sector announces strike to protest violence in Beduin village
In a standoff between demonstrators and police who came to demolish houses in Umm al-Hiran, a police officer was killed in circumstances that have yet to be determined.
Israel's Arab sector has announced a general strike on Thursday morning to protest the violent clashes that took place in the Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran, located in the Negev (southern Israel) on Wednesday.

According to Israel Radio, Israel's Arab Higher Committee declared three days of mourning.

Demonstrations with hundreds of people protesting the clashes and displaying solidarity with the village's residents took place in several cities across the country such as Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Wadi Ara overnight Wednesday. In a large demonstration that occurred in the northern city of Haifa, some 200 people waved Palestinian flags and banners, condemning government policy.

In the standoff between protesters and security forces, a police offer was killed after he was rammed by a suspected terrorist during an alleged vehicular attack. The officer, Sr. -St. -Maj. Erez Levi, was killed after he and other officers arrived in order to evict residents and demolish about 10 illegally constructed homes in the unrecognized Beduin village on lands that are slated to become Jewish residences.

The village's residents as well as other Israeli civilians who identified with their cause protested the demolition and the eviction. Among the demonstrators was the alleged attacker who "accelerated his car toward the officers to carry out a ramming attack," police say.

Reports say that different footage documenting the violent clashes has surfaced and appears to be shedding the suspected ramming attack in a new light. The question now raised is whether the perpetrator ran over police forces despite being called on to stop or whether police officers repeatedly fired at the perpetrator who was in his car until he lost control of the steering wheel and eventually sped up, resulting in the death of one police officer.

Among the protesters in Umm al-Hiran was Arab Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, who sustained head injuries in the confrontation with police. He was evacuated to the Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba. His injury was also the subject of dispute, with police saying that Odeh was hit with a rock by protesters and other accounts at the scene claiming that he was struck by a rubber-tipped bullet.

Speaking in front of Soroka with a bandaged head and a bloodstained shirt, Odeh lambasted the police actions and the government.

Yet, the lawmaker concluded by saying, “In the Negev, there is room for everyone, both Jews and Arabs.”

Speaking about Wednesday's events, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly pointed to Arab MKs, hinting that they had contributed to the violence.

“I ask everyone, especially members of the Knesset, to be responsible, to stop fanning emotions and inciting toward violence,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said the incident would not prevent the demolition of illegally built housing.

“Not only will this incident not deter us, it will strengthen us. It will strengthen our determination to enforce the law everywhere,” he said.

MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) was blunter, accusing Joint List legislators of having “blood on their hands.”

“I wish to say – especially now – to Ayman Odeh and to the rest of the Joint List who came [to Umm al-Hiran] this morning to inflame the situation: His [Levi’s] blood is on your hands.” 

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accused Arab Joint-List MKs of incitement to violence, calling them "outlaws hiding behind the mask of protectors of the law” in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari said she wanted to “remind the residents of Umm al-Hiran and the MKs of the Joint List that the Supreme Court examined the situation of the village during a long period of time and decided that the residents should move out. The state did not abandon them, it gave them alternative housing in the neighboring village of Hura,” she said.

Eliyahu Kamisher and Ben Lynfield contributed to this report.

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