Arab-Israeli protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails over the weekend in response to a video they said shows an Israeli police officer shooting an Arab citizen from behind.
The video appears to show the man, identified as 22-year-old Kheir Hamdan, holding a knife and approaching a police van. He repeatedly and wildly hits the vehicle's windows before an officer emerges. The man appears to turn away just before the officer opens fire, causing Hamdan to crumple to the ground. Others officers then pull him by the arms and legs into the van. He died in the hospital.
Israeli officials and police brass are standing by the officers, who said their lives were in danger when their colleague fired the fatal shot in the Arab town of Kafr Kanna on Saturday.
From the Times of Israel:
The officer who fired the fatal bullet — the only shot fired in the incident — told investigators that he believed his colleagues’ lives to be in danger, and that he shot to wound but not to kill, Channel 2 reported Sunday. He was the driver of the patrol car, and had gone to Kafr Kanna with three colleagues.
All four policemen are under investigation, but none has been suspended, and all will be reassigned Monday to what the TV report called “less fraught” areas of the country.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the officer who fired the shot a “righteous man.”
“We’ve seen the pictures, and we’ve seen incidents in the past in which police officers did not act decisively and paid with their lives,” Liberman said.
Israeli Arab protesters, one setting off a firework, clash with Israeli riot police during a protest over the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old Arab Israeli who appeared in video footage to be retreating from police, in the Arab village of Kfar Kana, northern Israel, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. Dozens of youths in this Arab village clashed with Israeli police on Sunday, hurling stones, uprooting traffic signs and hurling firebombs. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said he gives "full backing and confidence to police who acted in self-defense and neutralized the threat."
Following the shooting, masked Arab demonstrators threw stones, Molotov cocktails and shot firecrackers in scenes reminiscent of Palestinian protests in recent weeks against the Israeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Netanyahu on Monday suggested Arab citizens of Israel protesting were welcome to leave.
"To all the demonstrators who have rallied against the state and for the Palestinian Authority, I want to say one thing: You are welcome to move out. The state of Israel will not make things difficult," Netanyahu said, according to Israel's Arutz Sheva. "But for those who remain, we will make life difficult for the rioters and terrorists."
Kafr Kanna is located near Nazareth in the Galilee, the location where Jesus is believed to have turned water into wine.
The Israeli foreign minister said that should Israel one day reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Arab residents of the restive area should take on Palestinian citizenship and relinquish their Israeli citizenship.
“The people in the Triangle [area of Arab villages in Israel near the West Bank] must understand that if there is an agreement, they will not be citizens of the state of Israel,” Liberman said, according to the Times of Israel. “You can’t benefit from the National Insurance Institute, convalescence and unemployment pay while raving and inciting against the state. I think that today this is clear — they must be on the other side of the border.”
Liberman emphasized that the Arab citizens would continue to live in their towns, but that there would be a border adjustment to include them in a future Palestinian state.
“They will stay in their homes, on their land, [but] we will move the border, and the Palestinian Authority will take control of the Triangle,” he said.