Fear of violent clashes in rightists' march realized: Deputy Police Commissioner Shahar Ayalon was lightly injured Tuesday morning by stones hurled during a right-wing activists' march in the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Another senior officer and a policeman were also lightly wounded.
Knesset Member Ilan Ghilon (Meretz), who was also present in the area, was hurt by tear gas fired by the police. In total, 16 people were injured in Tuesday morning's events, all of them sustaining light wounds.
Hundreds of police officers deployed Tuesday morning in the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm and its surroundings, as well as on the Wadi Ara road, as right-wing activists held a protest march in the city.
The rightists were greeted by the city's residents and several left-wing activists, who threw stones at the marchers. Residents standing on rooftops waved shoes and cursed the marching activists.
The police used tear gas and shock grenades against the protestors on both sides in a bid to prevent an escalation. The parade ended about half an hour later, and its participants returned to their buses.
Police and protestors face each other (Photo: Ido Erez)
Buses and private vehicles began making their way to the Arab town from central Israel in the early morning hours. Upon arriving in Wadi Ara, the protestors were transferred to fortified vehicles brought from the West Bank.
They were accompanied by police cars to Umm al-Fahm, where they were greeted by the city's residents and left-wing activists. The march – led by Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and extreme right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, was accompanied by the empty buses.
The police, who were forced to allow the march following a court order, declared a heightened state of alert and deployed 2,500 officers to maintain public order. Every citizen and journalist approaching the scene was checked.
Magen David Adom emergency services also raised their alert level in the area. The protestors, however, said they could not understand what the commotion was all about.
"The only weapon we are bringing is the Israeli flag," MK Ben-Ari told Ynet. He rejected the claims that his people were attempting to create a provocation.
"There are hostile elements who say that the State of Israel is a provocation. They say that any national matter is a provocation. But all we are doing is wave the Israeli flag. All we are demanding is loyalty to the State, and that the police will be able to move freely and enforce the law. We are not here to provoke or expel anyone."
Sheikh Raed Salah in Umm al-Fahm (Photo: Ido Erez)
"Our statement talks about loyalty to the State of Israel," added Ben-Gvir, one of the leaders of the "march of the flags."
"There is in Umm al-Fahm a gang of hooligans, who think they can win using violence. The State of Israel is the Jewish people's state. We are here to voice our truth and not to create provocations."
'March aimed at uprooting residents'
The city's residents faced Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir, furious over the parade. "This is a sad day for me. The police are giving shelter to the most racist person in Israel," said one of them, Muhammad Talas. "I'm not against Jews. We love those who love us and hate anyone who hates us, and what is happening here is the Right's policy."
Another resident, standing on one of the balconies, said that "what is happening here is extremely troubling. We want peace, we are brothers."
One of the Arab protestors complained about the police's policy. "What can I say? You see for yourselves how the police defend the settlers instead of defending the city's residents."
Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh said after seeing one of the residents hurt and collapse, "We are witnessing police who are easy on the trigger. Instead of preventing provocations, they attack the people who came to defend their town. It's clear to everyone that the demonstration is aimed at uprooting Umm al-Fahm's residents.
He welcomed the cooperation with the Jewish Left, saying that "this is the hope we cling on to, and we hope the partnership is expanded alongside the future dangers."
Sharon Dolev, one of the area's residents who arrived to voice her support for Umm al-Fahm's residents, said, "We have been living here as neighbors for years, and trying to turn Umm al-Fahm into a place that looks dangerous is a sort of crime."
During the demonstration, Dolve was lightly hurt by a shock grenade hurled by the police.
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report