TAIBA (Apr. 1)
Most of Israel’s more than 700,000 Arab citizens and 1.5 million Palestinians in the administered territories held protest marches and demonstrations Friday, in honor of Land Day.
A general strike shut down public transportation, while schools were closed and businesses and shops were padlocked.
Land Day marks the annual commemoration of the events of March 30, 1976, when six Arabs were killed during rioting that broke out over the expropriation of Arab land in Galilee.
For 14 years the anniversary was peaceful. This year was no exception, except in Taiba, an overgrown village of 24,000 about 20 miles northeast of Tel Aviv, which is soon to be elevated to the status of a town.
Here violence erupted suddenly with the ferocity of the intifada. In this village 14 years ago, a Palestinian youth was killed in rioting on the first Land Day. A monument marks the spot.
This year, masked youths hurled stones and bottles at heavily reinforced police, who responded with tear gas. Before the day was over, seven policemen were injured, including one who was stabbed in the back.
The police made 22 arrests. Fifteen suspects were remanded by a magistrate’s court in Kfar Sava, while three were released.
Unlike the territories, where soldiers can shoot masked assailants, police in Israel proper are under orders to use firearms only if their lives are clearly endangered.
The youngsters in Taiba, well aware of this, dared to assault the police at close range.
It was during one clash that officer Avi Biran was stabbed in the back as he grappled with a youth. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was treated for a superficial wound.
The attack was viewed gravely by the police command, who acknowledged that while Israeli Arabs have thrown stones, they have never tried to kill a police officer.