RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat condemned Israeli authorities for the “crime” committed Wednesday during a demolition campaign in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, during which a Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli police and an Israeli policeman was killed, and numerous Palestinians were injured.
Erekat stressed that the international community’s silence towards Israeli actions only bought time and immunity for Israel to commit more crimes, adding that the situation “requires an immediate and urgent international intervention to stop this chaos before it’s too late.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that not holding Israel accountable regarding its role as an occupying power “lessens the credibility of countries who demand reviving and realizing the two-state solution.”
The ministry argued that Israel’s belligerence in the face of international conventions “calls for an international ethical wakening to punish Israel for its violations, and to end its occupation of Palestine.”
According to the ministry, the government led by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “escalated its aggression against Palestinian existence by conducting daily attacks and field executions against unarmed Palestinian citizens in an attempt to escape its internal crises and take advantage of international and regional changes.”
The statement added that Israel’s aggressive actions exemplified the “spread of racism and extreme violence in Israeli society,” and indicated a “deep state of political confusion in dealing with Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”
Israeli leadership divided over killing of Abu al-Qian
Meanwhile, Israeli officials were deeply divided on Wednesday over their accounts of Wednesday’s deadly police raid in Umm al-Hiran, as far-right ministers and Knesset members claimed that Yaqoub Abu al-Qian was shot dead while carrying out a deliberate car ramming attack, with Israeli police suggesting he was affiliated to the Islamic Movement and could have been influenced by the so-called Islamic State.
However, numerous witnesses said Abu al-Qian was shot by Israeli police while driving normally, which caused him to spin out of control and crash into policemen, and family members denied his affiliation to the Islamic Movement, insisting he was just a high school math teacher.
Joint List MKs — including Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalqa, Ahmad Tibi, and Aida Touma-Suleiman — had traveled to Umm al-Hiran to help locals opposing the demolition, when the head of the coalition, Ayman Odeh, was injured after being shot in the head by police with sponge-tipped bullet.
MK Gilad Erdan of the ruling Likud party, who also serves as Israel’s public security minister, accused Odeh of traveling to Umm al-Hiran to “incite violence” and warned that there might be “criminal implications for him.”
He also said on social media that “any attempts to murder police securing a court-ordered evacuation will get the same response,” referring to the killing of al-Qian.
Erdan was quoted by Israeli media as saying that “violence and terrorism will not win over the rule of law,” adding that he “hopes this won’t become a day that marks a turn in the relationship between the Bedouin and state authorities. But if it does, MK Ayman Odeh has greatly contributed to the matter.”
Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant meanwhile condemned “the Bedouin violence that awakened this morning,” calling to answer such violence “with a firm hard and uncompromising measures,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying.
He called on Israeli police and on Erdan “to increase the enforcement in the Negev and demolish all additional illegal homes in the Umm al-Hiran area today.”
He also accused the Palestinian MKs of “using their status and immunity to disturb security forces as they’re carrying out their assignments. The participation of Joint List MKs in the Bedouin’s protest against the evacuation causes unrest, constitutes incitement, and encourages violence.”
MK Zoabi reacted with outrage to Abu al-Qian’s killing and the demolition campaign, saying that Wednesday’s events were “just like when the Palestinians were expelled in 1948,” Ynet quoted her as saying.
She slammed Israeli media sites for repeating the police version of events, asserting that “this was an incident of expulsion as part of an overall plan of expulsion. You can’t turn it into a vehicular attack.”
Tibi for his part said that “The (Israeli) state treats its Arab citizens as enemies, and that is why even when they are protesting against the demolition of a house — which is part of their basic right for a roof over their heads –they are being shot and killed, and (police) are attacking both citizens and MKs.”
Tibi suggested that Netanyahu was “trying to cover up his own problems by creating a conflict and crisis with the Arab public,” referring to the fact that the Israeli prime minister is currently under police investigation.
Meretz MK Issawi Frej agreed with the assertion, saying that “the deeper the investigation, the deeper racism and violence go.”
“The prime minister realizes the only way to divert the attention from the investigations against him is to go to war against the Arab public. After the initial battle in Qalansawe last week, today was the official declaration of war,” Frej said.