Jerusalem: Leaders of Israel`s 1.7 million Arabs declared a general strike throughout the country on Tuesday in protest at the recent deaths of two Bedouin men in confrontations with police.
Former member of parliament Taleb al-Sana, chairman of an umbrella organisation of Arab Israeli groups, said that schools and businesses would close from the Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south.
"The general strike today is to send a strong message that the entire Arab community... strongly protests the murders of two citizens of the state of Israel whose only crime is being Arab," Sana, who is himself Bedouin, told Israeli army radio.
Sami al-Jaar died of a gunshot wound last week during a police drug raid on the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat.
Police have opened an enquiry to determine if the shot was fired by officers or townspeople.
During Jaar`s funeral on Sunday, Sami al-Zayadna, 47, died of a heart attack during clashes in which police fired tear gas.
Following Zayadna`s burial on Monday, angry protesters -- some of them masked -- hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police said.
Police statements said that five suspected stone-throwers were detained and that more arrests were expected.
Rahat residents have been on strike since Sunday.