World Bulletin/News Desk
Thousands of Arab-Israelis demonstrated Friday to protest what they called Israeli assaults on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and demand the prosecution of Israeli policemen responsible for recent killing an Arab youth in the northern Israeli town of Kafr Kanna.
Eyewitnesses reported thousands of protesters in Israel's northern towns of Umm al-Fahm, Kafr Qara and Kafr Kanna.
Leading the protests in Umm al-Fahm were Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and Arab Knesset members Haneen Zoabi and Afu Agbaria.
The demonstrations were called to protest the Saturday shooting of 22-year-old Khair al-Din Hemdan by Israeli police in Kafr Kanna.
Israeli police claimed to have been acting in self-defense, saying Hemdan had tried to assault them with a knife during a police attempt to arrest another Arab town resident.
Police say they first fired warning shots into the air, but had been forced to shoot on Hemdan once their lives were at risk.
A general strike was declared in all Arab towns across Israel on Sunday to protest the young man's murder.
Tensions have run high in the region since the Israeli authorities temporarily sealed access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem after the shooting of an extremist Jewish rabbi in the city.
The unrest mounted further after Israeli forces killed a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi in a raid on his East Jerusalem home.
Several Israeli parliamentarians have also entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in recent days, drawing the ire of Muslim worshippers and official condemnation from Arab and Muslim countries.
Groups of Jewish settlers, too, have forced their way into the site, prompting clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli forces.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon triggered what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against Israel's decades-long occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.Last Mod: 14 Kasım 2014, 23:16