Hundreds Riot in Kfar Qasem; Arab Sector Declares Strike After Man Shot Dead

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A security guard shot dead a man in the city of Kfar Qasem as hundreds of residents of the Arab city pelted police with stones, torched police cars and a local police station following the arrest of a local man. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a general strike following the incidents overnight between Monday and Tuesday that left several police officers wounded.

The incident began shortly after 11:30 PM, after police stopped a resident of Kfar Qasem, some 20 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, and asked for identification. Police arrested the man after it transpired he was wanted for questioning.  A police spokesman said the suspect resisted arrest and attacked officers, and said the detainee was soon joined by about 50 bystanders, who dragged him away. Police successfully re-detained the man but the situation quickly deteriorated as protesters responded with a barrage of stones and set several police cars on fire before attacking and burning down a local police station.

A resident of the city, 27-year-old Mahmoud Taha, was shot dead during the incident. Police said that their initial investigation suggests that Taha was killed when a civilian security guard at the police station who feared for his life opened fire on the protesters. The police stated it would launch a full official investigation into the matter of Taha’s death.

Police said that throughout the night police officers attempted to liaise with local officials to calm the situation, but Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan slammed Arab Israeli leaders for supporting “anarchy.”

“I know of no other country in which politicians speak out about whether a particular arrest is justified or not while also supporting violence against police officers… [that’s not the way it goes in a] democratic country,” Erdan told Army Radio.

But members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee blamed Prime Minister Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan both for the killing of an Israeli citizen and for failing to address organized crime in the Arab sector, and declared a general strike in the Arab sector for Wednesday.

In addition, the Committee said the Arab community would hold demonstrations at intersections around the country Tuesday afternoon at 5 pm, and a large demonstration in Kfar Qasem this Saturday.

The incident occurred just hours after MK Dov Khenin challenged Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on the Knesset floor to explain why the security establishment has failed to rein in gun use and street crime in the Arab sector. He said Arab municipal and national officials have asked repeatedly to confiscate guns in the Arab community and for increased, more effective policing, two requests that have gone unanswered.

The issue of effective policing in the Arab sector has long been a point of tension between community leaders and police officials. In recent months, eight people have been killed in Kfar Qasem, including a double murder last week. Residents of Kfar Qasem shut down the city’s education system this Monday to protest against the police failing to act against local violence.  

By: Andrew Friedman

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