Arab-Israeli kills policeman during demolition of illegal structures

An Israeli policeman was killed when an Arab Israeli rammed him with his car. Another officer was wounded. The police were operating to demolish illegally built Bedouin structures.

An Arab Israeli rammed his vehicle into a group of police officers on Wednesday, killing one of them before he was shot dead. Another officer was moderately wounded in the attack.

Officer 1st Sgt.  Erez Levi was operating with police forces in southern Israel to execute a court-ordered operation to demolish illegally built Bedouin structures when he was murdered.

Levi, 34, from Yavneh, was married and a father of two children.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a local man sped toward the forces deployed to the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran village.

The terrorist, later identified as Yaakub Abu al-Qiyan, is said to be a member of the Southern Wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and police are investigating whether he had connections to the Islamic State (ISIS) group. He was also an employee of Israel’s educational system.

After the vehicular attack, clashes broke out between police forces and rioting residents, during which several policemen were wounded. Local residents claim police used excessive force to remove protesters, including live fire.

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Amnesty International was quick to call for a probe into reports of police brutality.

Israeli Arab Member of Knesset (MK) Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List, was lightly wounded in the clashes. Police say he was injured by a stray rock thrown by the rioters. After receiving initial treatment from police medics, he was evacuated to a hospital.

Odeh claimed he was shot by officers.

“This is a direct order from (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu who wants to inflame the area,” he told IDF Radio. “This is a disgrace.”

He also published a statement claiming President Reuven Rivlin called him to inquire about his health. The president’s office denied such a conversation ever took place.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused Odeh of inciting violence by lying about what actually happened. Erdan said he hoped the incident would not spark further divisions between Jews and Arabs in Israel, but that if it happens, public figures like Odeh bear responsibility.

“He was there to inflame tensions and incite to violence,” Erdan told IDF Radio. “He contributed to a very serious event that may also have criminal implications for him.”

Other Arab MKs arrived on site, confronted police forces and further aggravated tensions.

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The illegal structures were ultimately demolished.

Wednesday’s evacuation involves a long-running dispute between the State of Israel and the formerly nomadic Bedouins.

Israel moved the Bedouins to the state-owned land some 60 years ago because they were spying for the Jordanians. At the time, they were told that the settlement was temporary. Years of legal battles ensued, and the state now wishes to relocate the Bedouins to government-designated towns.

President Reuven Rivlin later released a statement calling the incident “a terrible event” in which Levi “was murdered by a terrorist in an abhorrent terror attack.”

“I spoke this morning with Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh and with Arab regional authority heads. We must differentiate in the clearest of ways between the terrible terror attack carried out this morning and the actions of law enforcement in demolishing the illegal buildings,” Rivlin stated.

He addressed all leaders across Israel, “particularly in the Arab community,” saying “this is a stressful and difficult time, and we must all work together and do everything in our power to bring calm, in words and in actions.”

The police called on the Bedouin community to discard from its midst the “budding of extreme ideologies which are centered around terrorism.”

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By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
AP contributed to this report.