Some 1,500 Israeli Arabs block major road in protest over home demolition 29Jun13 June 29, 2013

Haaretz    -    28 June 2013

FirefoxScreenSnapz001Some 1,500 Israeli Arabs protested in Wadi Ara in northern Israel on Friday against the government’s home demolitions.

Protesters blocked a major road, causing heavy traffic in the area, and threw rocks at the large police force that arrived on the scene. Police then proceeded to disperse the crowd with tear gas and stun grenades.

The protest concluded after an hour and two demonstrators were arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers.

Friday’s protest was part of the demonstrations that were sparked after a home in the northern village of Barta’a, which straddles the Green Line, was demolished on Wednesday, after the Interior Ministry deemed it illegal. 

Ahmad Melhem, chairman of the popular committee in Wadi Ara, said he was hurt during the clashes when he tried to defend demonstrators from “police aggression.”

 “Our plan was to protest but not to engage in clashes, but the police responded with exaggerated violence and we collected dozens of stun and tear gas grenades.”

Coastal District police commander Haggai Dotan, who commanded the forces in the area of the incident, rejected the allegations of the use of excessive force and said that the policemen did not seek confrontations with the demonstrators and the moment that they cleared the road the forces headed back.

He said that there had been agreement between the police and the local leadership and that the police knew about their intention to blockade the road and allowed it to proceed, in order to assuage the rage of the protesters. He said the deal was violated and, consequently, the police were forced to get involved and clear the traffic route.

The secretary general of the Hadash party, Ayman Odeh, was at the scene and said that the protesters were not looking for a confrontation with the police.

“No one wants to clash with the police,” he said. “But the authorities need to understand that… the public’s distress is real and the government and the Interior Ministry must begin to listen to the Arab public.”

The home that was demolished on Wednesday belonged to the Abu Shakria family. Said Abu Shakria stated that the house was built decades ago. “It was on private land,” he said, “we build it after we despaired of getting a building permit. I tried for many long years to get a permit, and even went to the President’s Office – but without success. Now we’ve got nothing left.”

Abu Shakria claims that the house was demolished without prior warning. He explained how in the fog of night, dozens of Border Police officers arrived at the home, and brought with them numerous inspectors and Interior Ministry workers, who forced the family out of the house, along with their furniture. “It was a disturbing scene, to watch them demolish the house,” said Abu Shakria, standing near the ruins with tears in his eyes. “It’s as if our lives were ruined. As if there are no other problems in this country, and demolishing the house would solve them all.”

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