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Palestinian citizen of Israel killed by Israeli forces in Kafr Qasim clashes

June 6, 2017 10:42 A.M. (Updated: June 6, 2017 10:02 P.M.)
A car is ablaze in the Palestinian-majority town of Kafr Qasim in central Israel on June 6, 2017. (Credit: Israeli police)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by an Israeli security guard during clashes in the Palestinian-majority town of Kafr Qasim in central Israel on Monday night.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement on Tuesday morning that clashes erupted shortly before midnight when police detained a local man who was “wanted for questioning.”

Local youth threw stones at the police officers during the detention, and a “suspect” was also detained.

According to local news outlet Arab48, police officers fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at the crowd, which it said had gathered to denounce police failure to properly handle the high level of crime in Kafr Qasim.

Clashes continued into the night outside of the local police station, Rosenfeld said, adding that “as a result of a life-threatening situation,” a private security guard fired towards the protesters. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that at least two Palestinian citizens of Israel were injured during by gunshots.

One of the men -- whom Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri identified as 21-year-old Muhammad Taha -- was evacuated in critical condition to the Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva, where doctors later declared him dead.

Rosenfeld also reported that Kafr Qasim protesters set fire to three police vehicles, while Israeli news outlet the Jerusalem Post reported that a police officer was “slightly wounded.”

Taha’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, while the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel called for a general strike in all Palestinian-majority municipalities in Israel that same day.

According to Ma'an documentation, Taha is the 28th Palestinian to have been killed by an Israeli in 2017, and the second Palestinian citizen of Israel to be killed by Israeli forces this year.

In January, Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian citizen of Israel Yaqoub Abu al-Qian in highly contested circumstances during a raid in the Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran

Knesset member Ayman Odeh, who heads the Arab Joint List, a coalition of political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, went to Kafr Qasim with fellow Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi and Meretz lawmaker Issawi Freij following the clashes.

Odeh accused Israeli police of treating Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as enemies to be fought rather than citizens to be protected.

"I am in Kafr Qasim with residents who couldn't tolerate anymore this disfigured reality, where their blood is being shed in vain," Odeh said. "Instead of keeping order and security in Arab towns, they (police) open fire at the residents of Kafr Qasim."

Meanwhile, Freij called for an immediate investigation into Taha’s killing, the Jerusalem Post reported, calling the guard’s claim that he acted in self-defense “nonsense” given that he was accompanied by a police officer and village residents who were protecting him.

The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel held Israeli authorities responsible for the violence, Wafa reported on Tuesday, and called for a general strike in all Palestinian-majority towns in Israel on Wednesday, and protests on Thursday and Saturday -- in addition to the strike planned on Tuesday.

The committee slammed Israel’s “negligence” of Palestinian-majority towns, and called for the resignation of the Israeli chief of police and of Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have long complained of discriminatory treatment at the hands of police forces amounting to racial profiling.

Palestinian-majority areas in Israel have seen an increase in gun violence in recent years, while members of the Arab Joint List have called on authorities to crack down on illegal weapons in Israel’s Palestinian communities, where there is a disproportionate lack of policing compared to Jewish-majority neighborhoods.

In 2016, Joint List MK Yousif Jabarin warned against a rise in policing of Palestinian communities in the form of punitive action such as housing demolitions, rather than protecting Palestinian citizens of Israel from criminal violence.

“This is an issue that desperately requires reform rather than punishment,” Jabarin told Ma’an at the time. “It is important that the police adopt a new policy and attitude towards the Arab community. [...] Without this, the mere establishment of additional police stations and an increase in policing may result in increased tension and confrontation between our community and the police, rather than effective policing of crime and violence.”
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