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Israeli Arabs strike after recent house demolitions by Israeli authorities

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Israeli Arab leaders have called for a general strike in all their towns and villages in response to the demolition of 11 homes without proper permits by Israeli authorities.

Lawmaker Yousef Jabareen on Wednesday called the demolition in the central city of Qalansuwa "unprecedented" and vowed to fight further measures. He said the source of the problem were longstanding barriers placed by the state that prevent Arabs from acquiring proper building permits.

Arab Israelis complain that discrimination by the Jewish state makes it impossible for them to obtain planning permission to expand their communities.

The result is that many families resort to building homes without permission, leaving them liable to demolition.

Mohammad Barakeh, the head of an Arab Israeli umbrella organization and a former MP, told AFP that strike observance "exceeded expectations."

"There was an excellent response in all Arab villages and towns," he said.

The Joint List, a coalition of predominantly Arab parties, also condemned the demolitions.

"The act of demolishing 11 houses, whose owners built on their private lands in Qalansuwa, is an unprecedented crime and a declaration of war against the residents of Qalansuwa and against the Arab community in Israel," it said.

The list is the third largest bloc in the Israeli parliament.

Arab Israelis make up some 17.5 percent of the country's population, and are descended from Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Israeli public radio said that the strike was widely observed in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm, the country's largest Arab cities, and in the mixed-population city of Haifa.

Israeli daily Haaretz said that Qalansuwa mayor Abed al-Bassat Salameh resigned in the wake of the Tuesday demolitions after years of trying in vain to win official approval for an updated town plan.

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