NEGEV (Ma’an) — Two people were killed and several others were hospitalized Wednesday after a predawn demolition raid into the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region erupted into clashes, as Israeli forces used rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas canisters, and stun grenades to violently suppress locals and supporters who had gathered to resist the demolitions.
A Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli special forces and police after he allegedly carried out a car ramming attack on Israeli officers, leaving several injured, according to Israeli police. However, local residents who were at the scene said that the driver lost control of his vehicle after he was shot by police, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Israeli news site Ynet reported that family members of the driver insisted he had no intention of harming policemen and had even signaled before he turned his vehicle.
Locals identified the slain Palestinian citizen of Israel as 47-year-old Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qian.Al-Qian, a math teacher at al-Salam High School in the nearby town of Hura.
Israeli police later confirmed that a policeman succumbed to injuries he sustained by being hit by the car. The slain officer was identified as 34-year-old Erez Levi.
Member of the Israeli Knesset Ayman Odeh and head of the Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel, was injured in the head and back with rubber-coated steel bullets, locals said, and taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.
Odeh wrote in a statement on his Facebook page saying that “a crime was committed in Umm al-Hiran as hundreds of police members violently raided the village firing tear-gas bombs, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets. Villagers, women, men, and children stood with their bare hands against the brutality and violence of the police.”
Israeli authorities began carrying out the demolitions at around 9:30 a.m. during a lull in the clashes, though clashes reportedly began again an hour later. Israeli journalist Mairav Zonszein said on Twitter that police were pushing and clashing with Joint List MKs that remained at the site and that tensions were “very high.”
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement at 8 a.m. that Israeli police arrived to Umm al-Hiran to “prevent disturbances” and secure the area for Israeli authorities to carry out a demolition campaign in the village, when the “violent riots took place.”
Amid the clashes, “a vehicle driven by a terrorist from the Islamic Movement intended to strike a number officers and carry out an attack,” Rosenfeld said.
Police officers responded by shooting and killing the driver.
Rosenfeld claimed that the slain Palestinian, later identified by locals as 47-year-old math teacher Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qian, was a member of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and that police were investigating to determine whether or not he was “influenced” by the so-called Islamic State.
The police spokesman added that al-Qian was “involved in education and had a negative and dangerous influence.”
The local council for the Bedouin village of Hura, where al-Qian worked as a high school math teacher, declared a general strike to be held Wednesday to include all educational institutions in solidarity and protest of the the teacher’s killing.
MK Ayman Odeh wrote on Facebook around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday that after negotiations over the impending demolitions between residents of Umm al-Hiran and the Israeli government “exploded,” villagers called to prepare a demonstration to resist Israeli bulldozers.
“It is important that everyone who is able to be here,” Odeh wrote, as affirmed that he was heading to the village. “Demolishing a home should be no picnic! We are ready and insistent to stand against bulldozers.”
According to Haaretz, the Israeli government approved the construction of the new Jewish community of Hiran in Nov. 2013 to be built on the land of Umm al-Hiran. Village residents lost the legal defenses they mounted, including an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, and were unable to prevent the demolition of the village.