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Violent clashes in Israel as Palestinians protest against house demolitions

Protests have intensified after an autopsy report cast doubt on claims that Palestinian teacher was killed after driving his car into soldiers
Israeli security forces and Palestinian citizens of Israel during Saturday's protest (MEE)

Israeli police on Saturday used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel who had gathered to protest against a spate of recent house demolitions and the killing of a Palestinian teacher.

The clashes broke out close to the second city of Haifa in Wadi Ara, a district inside Israel that is mostly home to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

A number of injuries were reported, including of press photographer George Dabas, who was hit in the stomach by a rubber bullet.

There have been days of protest by Palestinians inside Israel since a spate of demolitions by the Israeli authority which they say were built without the required – and difficult to obtain – permits.

Israeli police form a cordon during Saturday's protest (MEE)

Politicians say they believe the house demolitions, a sensitive issue for many Palestinians, are part of a campaign of deliberate provocation by Israeli leaders, and an attempt to distract attention from a corruption scandal that threatens to topple Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Demonstrations have intensified since the killing of Yaqoub Abu al-Qiyan, a local teacher who was shot dead by Israeli security forces last week.

Israeli authorities say Qiyan, 47, was shot after he deliberately rammed his car into a group of soldiers on Wednesday.

However, the autopsy showed that the first bullet his Qiyan’s right leg, causing him to lose control, according to a report aired by Israel’s Channel 10 television station on Friday.

The second bullet hit his chest, causing severe internal bleeding – Qiyan was not given medical treatment, and bled to death at the scene after 20 minutes.

Speaking to MEE on Saturday, Israeli Knesset member (MK) Ahmed Tibi said he believed Qiyan had been killed “in cold blood.

“We must get the truth to the people. The prime minister and the head of the internal security forces is lying.”

Qiyan’s body is still in the hands of Israeli authorities, after his family rejected conditions for its release.

Authorities had insisted that he be buried at night, with only close family members invited to the ceremony, in an attempt to avoid the demonstrations that typically occur after funerals of Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces.

Palestinian citizens of Israel hold up Palestinian flags and placards written in Hebrew during Saturday's protest (MEE)

Ayman Odeh, an MK from the Joint List, has called for an internal investigation into Qiyan’s death, and Tibi has pledged to continue protests against what he called “Netanyahu’s incitement.

“Netanyahu knows that the issues of land and housing are the basis of the confict between us and the Israeli state. Despite knowing this, he still insists on demolishing houses,” he told MEE.

Talab al-Sana, who served as an MK for 20 years and is currently an activist focusing on housing and land rights in the Negev area, said he believes the recent spate of house demolitions are an attempt to distract from Netanyahu’s current political woes.

“Netanyahu is not interested in reaching an agreement [with Palestinian citizens of Israel].

“He wants a bloody conflict that will distract attention from the current investigation into his corruption file,” he told MEE.

“The state does not see us as citizens, and thus deals with us not as citizens but as aliens.”