Israel declares state of emergency in Lod, blaming 'riots' by Arab minority

The city of Lod had been the scene of violent clashes on May 10. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday (May 12) declared a state of emergency in the central city of Lod as police accused Arab residents of waging "wide-scale riots".

Netanyahu's statement came after an Israeli Arab was killed in Lod the previous night as violence soars between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

According to an AFP photographer, Netanyahu himself went to the city, which is in the suburbs of economic hub Tel Aviv near the Ben Gurion airport, to call for calm.

The city of 77,000 people, including 47,000 Jewish Israelis and 23,000 Arab Israelis, had been the scene of violent clashes on Monday, the local police confirmed to AFP.

But on Tuesday evening, as protests multiplied across East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and also Israeli Arab cities, the situation degenerated in Lod, police said.

"Wide-scale riots erupted by some of the Arab residents and endangering communities," the police said in a statement.

"Vehicle were burnt and damage caused to property." The government said reinforcements had been deployed after Israeli media reported that three synagogues and several businesses were set on fire in Lod.

"Sixteen border police platoons (have been) mobilised in areas in order to deal with the violence," the police added.

There were also violent scenes in Israeli Arab areas including Acre, Wadi Ara and Jisr A-Zarqa, where eight people were arrested, police said.

Weeks of tensions boiled over when Israeli riot police clashed with crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Nightly clashes since then at the compound, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, and elsewhere in east Jerusalem have left at least 700 Palestinians injured.

On Tuesday Palestinian militants Hamas and the Israeli army traded their heaviest fire for several years, with rockets fired at Tel Aviv after an Israeli strike destroyed a tower block in Gaza.

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