The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee has called for a general strike throughout the Arab community of Israel for Tuesday, January 20, to protest the death of two Arab-Bedouin in less than a week in clashes between police and residents in the city of Rahat.
On Sunday, January 18, Sami al-Ziadna, 45, was pronounced dead at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba following his collapse during confrontations between residents and police at Rahat. Protesters have claimed that al-Ziadna died as a result of the heavy use of tear gas by police in the area on Sunday night. All told, 23 persons were treated at Soroka Sunday night; by Monday, three were still hospitalized, including one in moderate condition with a head wound. Police said Sunday that the injured included two officers, the condition of one of whom was defined as moderate.
The clashes on Sunday began during the funeral of Sami al-Ja’ar, a 21-year-old Rahat man who was killed last Wednesday, January 14, while police detectives were attempting to execute a drug-related search warrant in the city and were attacked by rock-throwers. Tuesday’s planned general strike throughout the Arab community in Israel comes after a general strike was declared in Bedouin communities across the Negev on Sunday to protest the death of al-Ja’ar, and was extended to Monday following the death of al-Ziadna. Rahat’s Mayor, Talal al-Krenawi, said that the arrival of the police van at the scene during al-Ja’ar’s funeral, which sparked Sunday’s confrontation, was a deliberately-planned provocation. He accused police of treating Bedouin in Rahat “like they do in Jabalya and Gaza.”
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – released a statement on Monday saying that “police murders of Arab citizens have become routine” and are part of an overall violent and aggressive police approach towards the Arab citizens of Israel. They also accused the police of lying about what happened in Rahat. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) called for a state committee of inquiry to investigate the two deaths, saying that, since the mass demonstration in October 2000 in which 13 Palestinian-Arabs (12 of them Israeli citizens) were killed by police, over 45 Arab citizens of Israel have died at the hands of law enforcement authorities. “This is a reality that is unacceptable. We can no longer talk about isolated incidents; this is part of a severe systematic problem,” said Khenin.