Riot by Druse Villagers over Land Injures At Least 31
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Hundreds of angry Druse villagers shouting ″Kill the Jews 3/8″ attacked police Monday for tearing down an illegal tent camp they erected as part of a land dispute, and at least 31 people were injured.
Israel radio said 23 policemen, two nature reserve officials and six villagers were wounded in the clash on Mount Meron in northern Israel. It said the Druse, armed with metal chains and sticks, also set fire to 20 police vehicles and rolled them off the cliff.
The radio said the villagers returned to the site in the evening and rebuilt the tent camp.
Uri Baidetz, head of the Nature Reserve Authority, termed the confrontation ″a violent and unbridled riot.″
The villagers from Beit Jann, 108 miles northwest of Jerusalem, put up the tents last month to press their claim to 3,000 acres of land belonging to a nature reserve on Mount Meron.
They demanded the land be returned to them for housing, farming and public works projects.
Last month the villagers rejected a government proposal which would have enabled them to cultivate some of the disputed land.
Samir Wahdad, head of the Beit Jann local council, blamed the government for Monday’s clash.
″If (the government) pays no attention to a painful problem .. . then obviously the problem will escalate,″ Wahdad told Israel radio. ″We just want to live peacefully in our village on our private land.″
But Nature Reserve Authority spokeswoman Yael Shoham said officials were forced to tear down the tent settlement because the villagers refused to leave.
″Despite appeals from members of the government, public figures and other Druse leaders who asked them to leave the area...they refused to do so and planned to bring in permanent housing,″ Shoham told Israel radio.
The Druse are a community of hill people whose religion traces back to Moslemism but diverges from it.