JERUSALEM (JTA) – The deaths of two Bedouin citizens involving Israel Police sparked riots in Arab-Israeli towns in southern Israel.
Sami al-Jaar, 20, was killed during a police drug raid in Rahat in the Negev Desert on Jan. 15. At al-Jaar’s funeral three days later, Sami Zayadna, 45, died amid a hail of rubber bullets and tear gas directed at rioting mourners. Police said they were attacked by mourners and Zayadna suffered a heart attack during the melee.
In the al-Jaar incident, police said he was not deliberately targeted and that they shot in the air after being attacked during the bust. They said al-Jaar was standing nearby and was accidentally hit. Al-Jaar’s father said he was with his son at the time and that he was deliberately targeted.
An investigation has been launched.
Along with the death of Zayadna, nearly two dozen people were injured in the rioting at his funeral, Ynet reported.
A general strike was held in Rahat and other Arab-Israeli towns on Sunday and Monday to protest the deaths. Rahat is the largest Bedouin community and the only one in Israel to be designated as a city.
Israeli human rights and Arab rights groups have accused Israel Police of using excessive force in dealing with Arabs and Bedouins.