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Israeli Arabs strike to protest demolition of illegal buildings

Israeli Arab workers strike, say government is starting war, after illegal buildings demolished.

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Chana Roberts,

Demolition of illegal Arab building
Demolition of illegal Arab building
Flash 90

Israeli Arab workers called for a strike on Wednesday after Israeli authorities on Tuesday destroyed 11 illegal buildings in the central Arab city of Qalansawe. The demolitions also prompted Qalansawe's mayor to resign.

A statement from the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens claimed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is personally responsible for the demolitions.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh wrote on Facebook, "One thing is required: that we are strong in our response, not just with condemnation but mainly by preventing more demolitions of homes in coming weeks."

Israel's Finance Ministry released a statement saying the buildings destroyed were still in various stages of construction and were not yet inhabited, and that they were built on land which was outside the approved borders of Qalansawe.

Yasser Makhlouf, whose family reportedly had five buildings destroyed Tuesday, told the Arab48, "These vengeful orders of the government target all Arabs and these actions incite to violence. This is a clear declaration of war against the Arab society."

Netanyahu responded on Facebook, "I am not deterred by the criticism and as I have directed we are continuing to implement equal enforcement in Israel... Home demolitions must be egalitarian. The same law which necessitates the evacuation of Amona, necessitates the evacuation of illegal construction elsewhere in our country... I will enforce Israeli law in the Negev, in Wadi Ara, in the Galilee, in the center – all over the country."

"I praise the police force that conducted the demolition operation of illegal houses in Qalansweh. The difficult operation demonstrates law enforcement is as it should be," wrote Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).

However, MK Zuheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) said, "The State is once again betraying the Arab population and continuing its sins against the Arab population. The Arab population at times builds in an unregulated manner because it hasn't been given the possibility of building. Illegal Arab building is needed because the current policy is failed and discriminatory. I think this is a stain on Arab-Jewish relations. It's a provocation against one and a half million Arab citizens of Israel. Netanyahu is telling them, 'You don't belong to the state.'"

The Joint Arab List condemned the demolitions and supported the strike, saying the demolitions were "an unprecedented crime and a declaration of war against the residents of Qalansawe and the Arab public.... The houses were in the process of receiving planning permission, the government has hastened to act in order to make a point."

Though Jewish homes built legally or illegally are regularly destroyed, illegal Arab structures are often funded by foreign countries and are left to stand and multiply.