Israeli police up alert level after Arab protests

Israeli police went on heightened alert Sunday following protests across the country over the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old Arab Israeli who appeared in video footage to be retreating from police, as the prime minister vowed a tough response to any further unrest.

Thousands of Arabs took to the streets Saturday to protest the shooting, with many hurling rocks and firebombs at police. The protests continued Sunday with a general strike called by Arab Israeli community leaders and demonstrations outside universities and other institutions. The tensions add to those already raging in Jerusalem, where Palestinians from the eastern part of the city have been clashing almost daily with police over access to a disputed holy site.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police have beefed up security and raised preparedness to its second highest level -- the country's highest since the conclusion of this summer's 50-day Gaza war. The weekend protests included some marching with Palestinian flags and calling for an uprising.

At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against further violence.

"Israel is a nation of law. Whoever violates the law will be punished severely. We will not tolerate disturbances and riots," he said. "I have instructed the Interior Minister to use all means, including evaluating the possibility of revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel."

The anger erupted after an early morning incident Saturday in the Arab village of Kfar Kana in northern Israel. Police said officers opened fire against a knife-wielding man attempting to stab policemen. Video footage later emerged, apparently taken from a security camera, showing a man repeatedly banging on the window of a police vehicle with an object in his hand. When officers emerged to confront him, he began to backpedal and was then shot. Police took him to a hospital where he died.

The police's internal investigations department is looking into the shooting to determine whether proper protocol was followed.

Arab citizens make up some 20 percent of Israel's population. They enjoy full citizenship but share the ethnicity and culture of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and have long complained of discrimination. They often identify with Palestinian nationalism, rather than Israeli.

In a move that looked to further raise tensions, Israel's Cabinet on Sunday voted in favor of extending Israeli law to West Bank settlements. The bill, which has yet to pass in parliament, aims to fill a legal gap and apply full Israeli law on settlers as opposed to the current system of military decrees. Critics charge that, if implemented, the move would be construed as a step by Israel toward de facto annexation of the West Bank.