Israeli Arabs across the country launched a general strike on Sunday in protest against the killing of a man on Friday during what police say was a terrorist attack.
Mohammed Elasibi, 26, from the Bedouin town of Hura, near Beersheva, was shot dead in Jerusalem’s Old City after allegedly attempting to steal an officer’s weapon.
According to police, after officers stopped Elasibi near the Temple Mount for questioning, he attacked one of them, grabbing their weapon and firing off two shots. Kan News reported that Elasibi was studying medicine in Romania, and had returned home for Ramadan.
“A suspect advanced towards the officers, who were at the Chain Gate [entrance to the Temple Mount], and the officers questioned him. During the conversation, the terrorist rushed towards one of them, who struggled with his bare hands against the terrorist,” said Jerusalem District Police Cmdr. Doron Turgeman.
“The terrorist managed to pull out a policeman’s weapon and shoot in the direction of two police officers. The officers struggled with the suspect, recovered the weapon and neutralized the terrorist. This area is not covered by cameras when the gate is closed,” he added. The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time of the incident, according to Kan News.
While Elasibi’s family and witnesses dispute the police account, Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai on Saturday night said he had “no doubt” about what took place.
“After hearing from the district commander and being privy to all the data regarding the incident, I have no doubt that this is a terrorist attack,” said Shabtai. “The picture here is very clear: This is an attack that was carried out against police officers who were operating at the gate of the Temple Mount in order to allow freedom of worship and maintain order and public safety.”
Shabtai noted that the event was nevertheless being probed and that as a result, it was not possible to discuss all the details.
“We fully support the police officers and commanders who acted. We are in a very sensitive security period, with the police deployed widely throughout the country and working in an expanded format. The police are upright and do their job to the best of their abilities,” he said.
Sunday’s one-day general strike, applying to business, most schools and public services, was called by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella group of community leaders.
Demonstrations were also being planned during Elasibi’s funeral.
“This isn’t a case of conflicting versions—there is a regime that murdered a citizen in cold blood. The burden of proof is on the police,” the committee’s chairman, former lawmaker Mohammad Barakeh, told Army Radio on Sunday.
He threatened that the protests could turn violent in the event of “police provocations.”