Civil war eruption: Netanyahu declares state of emergency in city of Lod

The Nation  |  May 12, 2021

The use of emergency powers by Israel, caused by the ethnic violence over a new surge in Israel-Palestinian tensions, is the first time such measures have been used on the country's Arab community since the military administration over Israel's Arabs ended in 1966.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a state of emergency in Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish city that has recently seen widespread and violent rioting. 

The prime minister's office announced the decision after a special meeting of the nation's top security and legal officials. Amir Ohana, the police minister, has confirmed that he will use his authority to carry out the orders.

​According to the statement, Netanyahu called on law enforcement officials to ensure the restoration of public order and strengthen ground forces as soon as possible.

Alongside Netanyahu at the meeting were Ohana, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

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The country's police conducted an emergency evacuation of the city's Jewish residents amid violent unrest and clashes between Arabs and Israelis. 

Lod Mayor Yair Revivo has asked Netanyahu to declare a state of emergency in the central Israeli city as local authorities have "lost control" over the situation. He also called for the military to be stationed in the area, underscoring that the current developments are "too big for police".

The city's mayor reportedly feared that the street violence could end 70 years of peaceful coexistence. Revivo said that people are taking to the streets with weapons because they are afraid for their lives. He allegedly tried to calm the city's Arabs, saying "We haven't done anything to you", and begging them to remain calm.

The mayor of the troubled city called the situation a "civil war".

Riots resumed in Israel on Tuesday in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem, where several Arab families received eviction orders from the Israeli authorities, who used special means to disperse the crowd, the Israeli police acknowledged.

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On the Temple Mount, Israeli security forces actively used rubber bullets against Palestinians who came to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray. Throughout the country, unrest has broken out in cities with significant Arab communities, with the worst unrest taking place in Lod.

On Monday evening, the Gaza border saw the biggest escalation in recent years. During this time, militants in the Gaza Strip launched over 600 rockets at Israel, of which 200 were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system.

Israel has also carried out multiple attacks on the Gaza Strip in retaliation.

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