On Tuesday, January 20, about 2,000 persons participated in a protest vigil in Rahat, following the deaths of two Arab-Bedouin killed there in two separate events linked to police violence during the past week. The protestors marched through the southern city chanting “Police out!” and “We’re not afraid of police terrorism!” Other protests were held throughout the Galilee and at the universities of Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Beer-Sheva. Participating in the demonstration in Tel-Aviv were Hadash MKs Muhammad Barakeh and Dov Khenin.
On Tuesday, Arab citizens across the country observed a general strike called for by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee to protest against the two deaths and police brutality. Rallies and demonstrations were held by Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel late Monday in Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa, Umm al-Fahm, and other cities and towns to protest police violence against residents in Rahat.
Clashes between police and rioters in Rahat continued on Tuesday night, as officers arrested three people in the city for allegedly throwing rocks and firebombs during a protest march. A video posted online Tuesday night purports to show a local resident being run down by a police van, and then cuts to a shot of a man, apparently badly injured, laying on the pavement.
Sami al-Ja’ar, 21, died of a gunshot wound last Wednesday, January 14, during a police drug raid on the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat. Police have opened an investigation to determine whether the shot was fired by an officer or local resident. On Sunday, Sami al-Ziadna, 45, also of Rahat, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli police at mourners during Ja’ar’s funeral in the town’s cemetery. Following Sami al-Ziadna’s burial on Monday, angry protesters hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police said. Tires were set ablaze and demonstrators smashed the front of the local branch of Bank Hapoalim and other shops. Police statements indicate that five suspected stone-throwers have been detained and that more arrests were expected. The residents of Rahat have been on strike since Sunday.