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Palestinians in Israel declare national strike after police deaths

Jan. 20, 2015 2:23 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2015 11:45 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Leaders of Israel's 1.7 million Palestinians declared a general strike throughout the country on Tuesday in protest at the recent deaths of two Bedouin men in confrontations with police.

Former member of parliament Taleb al-Sana, chairman of an umbrella organization of Palestinian groups in Israel, said that schools and businesses would close from the Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south.

"The general strike today is to send a strong message that the entire Arab community ... strongly protests the murders of two citizens of the state of Israel whose only crime is being Arab," Sana, who is himself Bedouin, told Israeli army radio.

Sami al-Jaar died of a gunshot wound last week during a police drug raid on the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat.

Police have opened an inquiry to determine if the shot was fired by officers or townspeople.

During Jaar's funeral on Sunday, Sami al-Zayadna, 47, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli police at mourners in the Bedouin city of Rahat.

Following Zayadna's burial on Monday, angry protesters hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police said. Tires were set alight and demonstrators smashed the front of the Hapoalim Bank and other shops.

Police statements said that five suspected stone-throwers were detained and that more arrests were expected.

Rahat residents have been on strike since Sunday.

Rallies and demonstrations were held by Palestinian citizens of Israel late Monday in Haifa, Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, and other cities to protest police violence against residents in Rahat.

Bedouin MK Talab Abu Arar urged all Palestinians working in the Israeli army and other state security services to "take off their uniform and quit."

Although the majority of Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, some Palestinians managed to remain in their villages and their descendants today make up around 20 percent of Israel's population.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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