Middle East Eye / February 12, 2021
Protests broke out across Israel as Palestinians decried the lack of action on the spread of illegal weapons and gang crime in Arab communities.
Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested on Friday against police violence and their inaction over crime and the spread of firearms among gangs operating in Palestinian villages.
Protests erupted in several towns and villages including Umm al-Fahm, Kafr Qara and Tamra, where a 22-year old Palestinian, Ahmed Hijazi, was killed during a police shootout with masked gunmen in early February.
Demonstrators closed Road 65 near Kafr Qara and Umm al-Fahm in the Wadi Ara region, a vital highway that connects the coast with the eastern regions of Israel.
In Umm al-Fahm, the biggest Palestinian town in the Wadi Ara area, hundreds of Palestinians participated in protests for the fifth consecutive Friday.
Demonstrators performed Friday prayers in front of the Umm al-Fahm municipality building before demonstrating in front of the Israeli police station, and disrupting traffic by closing Road 65.
Other demonstrations were held in Baqa Al-Gharbiyye, Kafr Qasim and Al-Mashhad, local media reported.
The Israeli authorities deployed special forces in Umm al-Fahm near the police station and the entrance of the town, using tear gas and vehicles to spray wastewater to disperse the demonstrators, who called for “international protection” from the United Nations and raised a Palestinian flag.
Tamra’s residents said the killing of Hijazi had highlighted for many the growing threat from organised crime – as well as the police response – across Palestinian towns.
Suhail Diab, head of Tamra’s municipality, said during the demonstration that “we will keep the peaceful protests and strikes, calling on the Israeli government and police to seize and confiscate all the guns and arms in Arab communities.
“We always said that we want a community without legal or illegal arms…we are one nation, one family, one blood and one religion and we need to keep going with this peaceful struggle.”
Since January, 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed in armed clashes or as a result of criminal activity in various incidents inside Palestinian towns.
In 2019, 91 Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed as a result of a violent crime, while 47 Jewish Israelis were killed in similar acts, according to newspaper Haaretz.
Early in February, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel – who make around 20 percent of Israel’s population – demonstrated in several towns over Hijazi’s killing.
The incident was denounced by several Arab members of the Knesset and right groups.
Haifa-based rights group Adalah condemned Hijazi’s killing at the time.
“For too long, Israel has ignored the issue of internal violence within Arab communities and has not taken any measures to curb violence,” Adalah wrote, using the term commonly used in Israel to refer to the Palestinian community inside the country.
“The situation has become disastrous, leading to police invasions of Tamra – the most recent of which turned deadly.”
In October 2019, the Palestinian community inside Israel launched a mass car convoy driving slowly on one of the country’s busiest highways, bringing it to a near standstill, in protest against Israeli police inaction over the spread of weapons in the hands of gangs.