Arab-Israeli leaders slammed the Israeli assault on Gaza Saturday, referring to it as a “war crime.” Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka, who participated in a rally in Nazareth, called for a general strike by Israel’s Arab community in protest of the operation in Gaza.
“Following this offensive, the world should punish Israel and impose a siege on it, because if the Gaza blockade is the result of the firing, then Israel fired in one day what the Palestinians have fired in five years,” he said.
“I call for the indictment of Barak on war crime charges in Gaza,” he said. “Barak is attempting to win votes in exchange for Palestinian blood, yet it’s not only Barak; all Israeli government ministers are war criminals.”
Meanwhile, Arab-Israelis in many communities nationwide hit the streets Saturday afternoon to protest the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Rallies were also reported in the Arab world and in major West Bank cities. Police have deployed in force in east Jerusalem and detained several stone throwers.
Protest in Haifa (Photo: Michal Cherkesky)
Hundreds of east Jerusalem residents hurled stones at police and Border Guard forces at the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp. Police forces dispersed the stone throwers. In a separate incident, dozens of young east Jerusalem residents torched garbage bins on Salah al-Din Street. There too, the demonstrators were dispersed by police.
Near the Old City’s Herod’s Gate, Arabs hurled stones at police. No injuries were reported and one stone thrower was nabbed. Border Guard police also faced stone throwers in the Old City’s Muslim quarter; four people were detained during the clashes.
In another act of aggression, an Israeli Arab youth with a police record attempted to run over a police officer in east Jerusalem Saturday afternoon. Authorities assume the attack was nationalistically motivated, and police have launched an investigation.
‘International community must intervene’Anticipating local riots, police in northern Israel reinforced the presence of forces in the area. Extra police were deployed in the northern town of Akko as well as in other communities that are expected to see rallies and protests take place.
Dozens of people also protested in the town of Sakhnin, while Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi called for a reinstatement of the Gaza lull.
“The assault on Gaza is a war crime and must be stopped,” he said. “We must go back to the lull and open the crossings for everyone’s benefit. The international community must intervene immediately and stop the offensive.”
Hadash movement supporters protested in the town of umm al-Fahm and a major rally is scheduled to take place in Nazareth. All Arab parties criticized the Gaza operation, including Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh, who urged the government to immediately stop the “crime in the Gaza Strip.”
“The escalation will not bring about quiet and calm,” he said. “The Palestinian people in Gaza must not face starvation and bombardments. The government and defense minister are attempting to score political points during an election campaign at the expense of the Palestinian people’s blood.”
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report