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Palestinian citizens of Israel stage nationwide strike

General strike 'a strong message' of protest against Bedouins' murders
Taleb al-Sana speaks during a rally in the Israeli city of Nazareth on 28 April 2007 (AFP)

Leaders of 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel declared a general strike throughout the country on Tuesday in protest at the recent deaths of two Bedouin men in confrontations with police.

Former member of parliament Taleb al-Sana, chairman of an umbrella organisation of Palestinian groups inside Israel, said that schools and businesses would close from the Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south.

"The general strike today is to send a strong message that the entire Arab community... strongly protests the murders of two citizens of the state of Israel whose only crime is being Arab," Sana, who is himself Bedouin, told Israeli army radio.

Sami al-Jaar died of a gunshot wound last week during a police drug raid on the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat.

Police have opened an enquiry to determine if the shot was fired by officers or townspeople.

During Jaar's funeral on Sunday, Sami al-Zayadna, 47, died of a heart attack during clashes in which police fired tear gas.

Following Zayadna's burial on Monday, angry protesters -- some of them masked -- hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police said.

Police statements said that five suspected stone-throwers were detained and that more arrests were expected.

Rahat residents have been on strike since Sunday.

Israel detains 9 Palestinians in West Bank dawn raids

Meanwhile, the Israeli army detained in the early hours of Tuesday nine Palestinians in several parts of the occupied West Bank, according to eyewitnesses and a local NGO.

Israeli army forces detained eight Palestinians from the West Bank towns near the cities of Hebron and Tulkarm, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

One other Palestinian man has been detained near Ramallah, eyewitnesses told The Anadolu Agency.

Israeli forces routinely conduct detention campaigns targeting Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on claims they are "wanted" by Israeli authorities.

Over 7,000 Palestinians are currently languishing in prisons located throughout Israel, according to the Palestinian government.

Israel razes house under construction in East Jerusalem

Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers early Tuesday demolished a house under construction owned by a Palestinian man in Isawiya neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, under the pretext of having been built without permit.

"Three Israeli bulldozers under the protection of Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood at dawn and start to demolish the house immediately, without any warning," the house owner, Osama al-Dare, told AA.

"The building process has started one year ago on an area of 170 square meters," he added.

After the demolition, clashes erupted between young Palestinians and the Israeli forces.

"Around 20 Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and teargas against Palestinians inside Isawiya," local activist Mohamed Abu al-Humus told AA.

"A Palestinian woman was injured in her leg with a rubber bullet and five Palestinians suffered suffocation from teargas inhalation," he added.

Palestinians have long complained that the Israeli municipal authorities impose tight restrictions on the construction and renovation of Palestinian homes in the flashpoint city.

Sacred to both Muslims and Jews, East Jerusalem is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied the city along with the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, claiming the city as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state in a move rejected by the international community.

Palestinians, for their part, accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" the holy city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity.

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