Fresh arrests as fighting spreads beyond Shuafat refugee camp; senior official says Jerusalem situation ‘liable to get out of hand’
By TOI STAFF
A tenuous calm appeared to return to East Jerusalem on Thursday morning after hours of clashes in Palestinian neighborhoods throughout the city, with Israeli security forces gearing up for the possibility of more fighting in the coming days.
Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, launched fireworks and set tires and garbage dumpsters on fire in several neighborhoods through Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday, as riots over the closure of the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat spread to other areas of the cities, sparking some of the heaviest fighting seen there in over a year.
Police have been searching Shuafat for the suspected gunman behind a shooting attack at a nearby checkpoint Saturday night that left a soldier dead and another guard hospitalized in serious condition.
Police are expected to bolster force numbers throughout the capital in the coming days, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Four Border Police reserves units are on notice of potential call-up to help secure the city, according to Haaretz. A decision on whether to deploy the units was expected to be made later Thursday morning, the report said.
“This is not Guardian of the Walls 2, but the situation in Jerusalem is liable to get out of hand,” a senior security source told Kan, referring to the conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups last May and its accompanying violence between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Police said two officers were lightly injured by shrapnel from suspected improvised explosives in the neighborhood of Issawiya. Footage from the neighborhood later in the night showed an army jeep that appeared to have caught fire.
Officials said Thursday morning that 23 people had been detained in connection with the rioting in Jerusalem over the past days, with nine detained in raids on their homes in Issawiya on suspicion of involvement in the violence.
All through the night, the booms of fireworks and sound grenades echoed through parts of the capital, with clashes reported in neighborhoods throughout East Jerusalem.
In Sheikh Jarrah there were reports of fighting between Jews and Arabs, both groups apparently armed with rocks.
There were also reports of violence in Silwan, Kafr Aqab and A-Tur.
The violence came amid rising unrest in the capital and the West Bank, where sporadic clashes were also reported Wednesday night.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes with troops near Hebron, and on Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed in a shooting near Nablus while securing a settler march.
Israeli troops reportedly came under fire in Nablus again early Thursday as they escorted a small group of Jewish pilgrims to Joseph’s Tomb in the city.
The Jewish worshipers, including Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, reportedly arrived in armored personnel carriers, a change from previous visits in armored buses escorted by the military.
There was no immediate comment from the IDF on the visit or possible injuries.
There have been several days of rioting in Shuafat, where Israeli forces have imposed a closure since Saturday night following the shooting attack at the nearby checkpoint.
The rioting came as Jewish Israelis were celebrating the Sukkot holiday, which generally draws thousands of visitors to Jerusalem and its Old City, often raising tensions with Palestinian residents.
In Beit Hanina, stone-throwers broke the windows of a car carrying a Jewish family, forcing them to flee the area.
The father of the family told the Ynet news site that they had been on their way to visit Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem when he made a wrong turn and was instead set upon by an angry mob.
On Thursday morning, he told the Kan public broadcaster that he believed he and his family were lucky to escape.
“They threw a stone that we only saw later had landed near the child’s feet, but miraculously nothing happened. The window next to the child was smashed and [rioters] tried to punch her,” said the man, named only as Yaakov by the network.
Police said Thursday that two people have been arrested in connection with that attack.
Video from Ras al-Amud showed a hail of fireworks, reportedly directed at apartments owned by Jewish families who have settled in the area.
A car carrying Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, on his way to a complex of Jewish-owned apartments abutting the neighborhood for a Sukkot celebration, was reportedly pelted with stones.
Other footage showed a man in Jewish garb fleeing as fireworks explode on the ground all around him, and a video showed what appeared to be a police jeep surrounded by flames.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said police and Border Police were working to get the unrest under control.
“We have no intention of allowing this violence to continue and we are determined to act harshly against anyone who disturbs the peace and endangers residents or police,” he said in a statement after meeting with police commissioner Kobi Shabtai and top Jerusalem cop Doron Turgeman.
Times of Israel