Sunday night, January 18, Sami al-Ziadna, 45, died hours after he was injured during clashes with police in the Arab-Bedouin city of Rahat which left over two dozen others hurt. Clashes broke out after a police van arrived at the funeral of Sami al-Ja’ar, 20, who died after being hit by a police bullet last Wednesday night, January 14.
Police sources said that the van dispatched to the funeral came under a barrage of stones and was attacked repeatedly, forcing officers to use crowd dispersal weapons (tear gas, concussion grenades, sponge covered bullets) to flee the scene.
Al-Ziadna may have died due to cardiac arrest or a complication brought on by the large concentrations of tear gas used by police at the scene. Another protester was seriously wounded and at least 22 others were lightly injured. Two police officers were also hurt during the clashes, one moderately.
The clashes came following a one-day general strike held in Arab-Bedouin towns and villages across southern Israel to protest the death of 20-year-old Sami al-Ja’ar, who was killed by a police bullet after law enforcement personnel arrived in his neighborhood to execute a search warrant on the house of a suspected drug dealer. When shot, al-Ja’ar was standing in the yard of his home during clashes between police and neighborhood youths.
Al-Ja’ar, who was buried on Sunday following an autopsy and investigation into the circumstances of his death, is the second Arab-Palestinian citizen of Israel to be killed by police in recent months. Al-Ja’ar’s death has sparked rage in the many Bedouin villages of southern Israel where severe discrimination by authorities is already the norm. During the general strike on Sunday, shops and market places remained closed and hundreds of schoolchildren participating in the strike did not attend classes. Local councils and other public offices also remained closed.
Israel’s Ministry of Education reportedly attempted to break the strike by forcing teachers and other school employees to report for work, threatening actions against anyone who refused. However, activists among the members of the school parents’ committees forced teachers who reported for work in some schools to return home and honor the strike.
As a result of the death of Sami al-Ziadna on Sunday night, the general strike in the Arab-Bedouin towns and villages is continuing today, Monday, January 19, for a second day.