Israeli Arabs in strike protest

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The Independent Online
ISRAELI Arabs in northern Israel went on strike yesterday in protest against police brutality at the weekend after three houses were demolished near the village of Shefar'am in Galilee.

The houses demolished were in a hamlet called Um al-Sehali, whose existence is not recognised by Israel, though their destruction has left three families with 41 children without homes.

The violence on Saturday and the strike today marks the most serious confrontation between Israel and the 850,000 Israeli Arabs since 1976, when police shot dead six demonstrators protesting over the loss of their land. The fighting at Shefar'am, in which 20 policemen and 24 demonstrators were injured, came after local people tried to rebuild the three houses. The houses which were destroyed belonged to settled Bedouin, who often serve in the Israeli army, but say they do not receive basic civil rights. Talab el-Sana, a member of the Israeli Knesset, said young Bedouin in the Israeli army were threatening to turn their weapons against the security forces: "These youth are serving in the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) but if that's the attitude towards them, why should they guard the country? They'll take the weapons and go and guard their homes." Ahmed Tibi, a prominent Israeli Arab and an adviser to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, said: "It appears the government wants to push the Arab sector by force into confrontation." A police spokeswoman said Arabs had triggered Saturday night's clashes by raining stones on officers who came to halt the reconstruction of the homes.

Abed Anabtawi, another Israeli Arab leader, said: "12,000 Arab homes are threatened with demolition, that is why we say it is a policy in Israel to demolish Arab homes."

Israel does not recognise the legal existence of more than 40 Israeli Arab villages.