In Israel: 12 anti-war demonstrators arrested

Hundreds of Haifa University Students come out against IDF operation in Gaza Strip, clash with police. National Democratic Assembly member hospitalized with broken foot
, Ynet reporters, Jan. 6, 2009

Hundreds of students from the University of Haifa participated in a rowdy demonstration against Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon, clashing with police as the servicemen separated between them and students demonstrating in support of the IDF operation in the Strip.

Twelve of the demonstrators were arrested for allegedly attacking police officers.

Among those arrested is National Democratic Assembly Secretary General Awad al-Fatah, who arrived at the campus expressly for the protest, and National Arab Student Union Chairman, Mamdouh Agbriya. Another National Democratic Assembly activist, a student at the university, was hospitalized at Carmel Hospital with a broken foot.

"The continued detention of the National Democratic Assembly secretary general will draw much agitation within the Arab sector. I call upon the police to release him immediately," said National Democratic Assembly Chairman MK Wasil Taha.

Since the outbreak of fighting, there have been a number of confrontations between Jewish and Arab students opposed to the IDF action and those who support it. Due to the increased number of clashes, Haifa University decided not to authorize any demonstrations. In response, Hadash students decided to demonstrate in the center of the campus.

According to police estimates, some 1000 people gathered on the spot, both for and against the Gaza operation, yelling slurs at one another. The police worked hard to keep the two sides separate from one another. However, according to the police, a short time after the demonstrations started, disturbances started. Twelve students were arrested for allegedly attacking police officers.

'Police hit the students'

Wael Soued, one of the protesting students, claimed that the demonstration started as a quiet protest until provocations came from the Jewish students.

"The objective was to have a quiet protest with signs and posters. They started making derogatory statements towards us, and we answered back. Within a few minutes, a big tumult broke out. The police got involved with batons and people got hurt," Soued recounted.

One Haifa University student, Rasha Ibrahim, said, "I still can't get the images of police hitting students out of my head. The National Democratic Assembly secretary general approached us and asked that we be quiet because we don't have a demonstration license. He said that we still have the right to protest quietly. And all of a sudden we saw that they arrested him, and gave him some hard blows knocking him to the ground."

University spokesperson, Dr. Amir Gilat, told Ynet that most of those arrested are not students at the university.

Jerusalem: Classes start, riots stop

A number of violent arguments broke out at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well. Dozens of Jewish and Arab students from various political factions protested for and against the fighting in the Gaza Strip got let emotion get the best of them let the situation come to physical aggression.

One student, Tal Pior, recounted the events to Ynet. "At about 12:10 pm I went out into one of the main corridors where I saw a large gathering of Arab-looking students waving signs that said 'End the Occupation' and 'End the War' and pictures of wounded Palestinians," Pior described.

"Across from this group, another group gathered and an argument broke out between them about the objectives of the fighting," she continued. She said that within a short time, the situation deteriorated into physical violence with pushing and shoving and hands being raised.

"The shouting didn't stop for even a minute," she said.

Once classes reconvened, the day continued on as usual, and the confrontations died down.

Ahiya Raved, Ronen Medzini, and Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report

Sderot, Gaza residents call for renewal of truce

Some 1,800 Israelis and Palestinians, including 500 Sderot residents, sign petition calling for end to IDF operation in Gaza, renewal of dialogue between Israel, Hamas

Daniel Edelson, 12.29.08, 09:07 / Israel Activism

Despite the ongoing rocket attacks on their town from Gaza in the last several years, some 500 Sderot residents have recently signed a petition calling to stop the IDF operation in the Strip and renew the truce with Hamas.

Arik Yalin, 43, from Sderot told Ynet that over 1,800 Israelis and Palestinians have already joined the petition. "About a month ago we realized that the situation was about to deteriorate into total chaos," he explained.

"It's important for us to voice an opinion that represents quite a few residents who live within the rocket range but who believe that we can, and should try to resolve this ongoing conflict in a peaceful manner.

"We have experienced the terrible hardship of life under rocket fire for the past eight years, and it has deeply hurt us both mentally and physically. Our need to voice a different stance stems from the strong desire to change the situation and begin negotiations with the other side in order to stop the violence," he added.

According to Yalin, a military operation will only deepen the hatred on both sides and reduce the chances of reaching a settlement. "The underlying assumption is that eventually there would be some kind of understanding. The only question is how many innocent people would get killed along the way."

'Operation only leads to more hate'

Hakim Hassona, the owner of a Gaza hauling company, praised the initiative. "Why use violence when there are no winners in this war?" he asked. "At the end we are cousins and neighbors and there's no need to get into this situation.

"They say that an assault will create deterrence, but what kind of deterrence? This only leads to more hate. There isn't a family in Gaza who hasn’t had a relative hurt in the raids… the ordinary person doesn't care about the war, he just wants to live in peace."

The "Different Voice" group, which was formed by Yalin and his friends, seeks to promote dialogue between Israel and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. Dozens of the group members maintain constant contact with several of Gaza's residents.

Yael Levy contributed to the report

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