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General strike observed to protest killing of Palestinian citizen of Israel

June 7, 2017 1:05 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 8:41 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian communities in Israel observed a general strike on Wednesday to mourn the death of a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was shot dead by an Israeli security guard during clashes in the Palestinian town of Kafr Qasim in central Israel on Monday night.

Palestinian-majority towns in the southern Negev desert, the Triangle region, Galilee in the north, and coastal cities launched the strike after a decision from the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel to protest the killing of 21-year-old Muhammad Taha.

Taha was shot dead when Israeli police officers suppressed protesters in Kafr Qasim who had gathered to denounce police failure to properly handle the high level of crime in the town.

Wednesday’s strike saw business, schools, and civil institutions shuttered across Palestinian-majority municipalities in Israel, as locals organized for protests scheduled for 5 p.m., news site Arab48 reported.

In Nazareth, the municipality’s headquarters, public and private institutions, business, and schools reportedly closed their doors. The northern towns of Kafr Kanna, Reineh, Ilut, Mashhad, Akka, Ein Mahel, Sakhnin, and Arraba witnessed a partial strike. A partial strike in Shaghour saw banks, businesses, schools, and local authorities shut down. In Umm al-Fahm, Rahat, and the Triangle region, a general strike was organized, while coastal cities observed a partial strike.

According to Ma'an documentation, Taha was among 29 Palestinians to have been killed by an Israeli in 2017, and the second Palestinian citizen of Israel to be killed by Israeli forces this year.

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 that resulted in Taha’s killing.

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, 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 said it held Israeli authorities responsible for the violence, slamming Israel’s “negligence” of Palestinian-majority towns, and called for the resignations of the head of district police in Kafr Qasim, Israeli chief of police Roni Alsheikh, 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.
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