Violent protests continued into the early morning hours of Sunday in Jerusalem as angry Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli police at multiple sites in the capital. In some of the worst such violence in years, there was also a spate of attacks on Jewish targets in the city, though with no immediate reports of serious injuries, and clashes at hot spots in the Galilee too.
The protests have been escalating for days, since the brutal kidnapping and murder last Wednesday of a Palestinian teenager, which police increasingly believe was carried out by Jewish extremists in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers on June 12 by a Hebron-based Hamas cell.
Clashes between police and protesters, nearly all of them young Palestinian men, occurred in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kalandiya, Isawiya and A-Tur. A few protesters were arrested late Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Reports of violent incidents throughout the capital mounted overnight.
Firefighters were battling a blaze between Har Homa and the Mar Elias Monastery in southern Jerusalem that authorities believe was started by a firebomb aimed at Jewish drivers on the nearby road.
Two cars, one of them belonging to a United Nations agency, were destroyed in a fire caused by a firebomb thrown at them in the Nof Tziyon neighborhood. No one was wounded in the incident.
In Sharafat, an Arab village near the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, some 200 demonstrators clashed with police. A similar altercation between police and dozens of rock-throwing Palestinians took place in the Antonia neighborhood in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Also in the Old City, a Jewish woman was lightly injured early Sunday when she was attacked by a group of Palestinian men, who fled when her husband arrived and fired his gun into the air. Police said they were pursuing the attackers.
A firebomb was thrown at a thoroughfare in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, and two grenades were hurled at security forces near Rachel’s Tomb, on the road to Bethlehem south of Jerusalem. No one was injured in either incident.
A Jewish vehicle was reportedly attacked by masked Palestinian men near the contentious Maaleh Hazeytim neighborhood on the Mount of Olives east of the Old City.
According to the Haredi news site Behadrey Haredim, some 15 Palestinian men entered Yeshivat Hatfutsoth, a religious seminary on Mount Zion, on Saturday and threw stones into the seminary dining hall. The yeshiva’s students responded by throwing chairs, food and boiling water at the intruders.
Several Palestinians sustained burns and fled the scene, the website reported.
“This is a precedent,” yeshiva head Rabbi Avraham Goldstein was quoted as saying. “This is the first time something like this has happened on Mount Zion. We have good relations with all the religions in this place, and we hope the police will treat this incident with utmost seriousness.”
At least two Israeli buses were also pelted with stones on Saturday night, one in East Jerusalem near Mount Scopus and the other near the West Bank village of A’uja, just north of Jericho. In the Mount Scopus incident, the driver and two passengers sustained light wounds and were evacuated by MDA to the nearby Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus. In the second incident, the driver was lightly wounded and damage was caused to the bus and a nearby car.
Palestinians reported on Saturday night that dozens of Jewish demonstrators had entered the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tzafafa, in southern Jerusalem, and threw rocks at Palestinian homes and vehicles. Police reportedly responded with crowd-dispersal weapons.
Earlier Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials, and instructed them to meet violence and unrest with a firm hand, adding that lawbreakers would be dealt with severely.
In Nazareth, as many as 1,000 protesters took to the streets on Saturday evening in a rally marked by some outbursts of violence, including rock throwing directed at police and the firebombing of a municipal garbage can.
Rocks were thrown at vehicles driving on Route 2, the main Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal highway on Saturday night. No one was hurt in the incident.
Police forces were deployed to the Galilee town of Taybe on Saturday to keep Road 444, which cuts through the town, from being blocked by protesters. Demonstrators nevertheless took to the streets in the evening, after breaking the Ramadan fast, lit tires on fire, threw stones at the entrance to the city and barricaded a handful of smaller streets.
“There are only a few protesters lighting tires and throwing stones at the entrance to the town,” one resident told the Hebrew-language news site Walla. “Most residents are in their homes, walking in the streets or sitting in cafes.”
Heavy rioting was reported in the Wadi Ara region of northern Israel, home to a large Arab Israeli population. Police said they were pelted with stones and responded with crowd control weapons in several incidents in the area on Saturday.
Demonstrations also took place on Saturday outside Kalanswa, east of Netanya, following violent clashes with security forces early Saturday. Hundreds of people chanted slogans, hurled rocks and burned tires in several demonstrations in the area. Police arrived at the scene and, after calling on the demonstrators to disperse peacefully, attempted to break up the crowds with anti-riot gear.
Roads in and out of the two towns were closed off by security forces. A police spokesperson said that officers would allow “any legitimate expression of protest, but any disorderly conduct will be met firmly and decisively.”
The mayor of Kalanswa attempted to calm Arab residents, calling on them to avoid rioting and leave the streets.
On Saturday morning, a 20-year-old motorcyclist was attacked by demonstrators near the entrance to Kalanswa while driving along the road into the town. He was hospitalized in moderate condition at Meir Hospital in nearby Kfar Saba.
The incident followed several attacks on Jewish drivers by masked men on road 5614 into Kalanswa, which was blocked due to burning tires overnight Friday.
The masked men began asking drivers stuck on the road if they were Jewish. Two of the drivers who answered back in Hebrew were dragged from their cars and beaten. One of them managed to get back in his car and drive away while the other escaped on foot. His car was set on fire.
A police officer in uniform was also attacked on the road. He escaped on foot and his vehicle sustained damage.
Several Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Jewish village of Mei Ami in the Wadi Ara region on Saturday. Police were called to the scene.
An unnamed senior police source was quoted in Israeli media on Saturday as saying that clashes in East Jerusalem and in Israel’s Arab communities were expected to escalate in the coming days, with “more and more people joining the riots.”
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said earlier Saturday that there would be zero tolerance for people who decided to take the law into their own hands. Aharonovitch said police would not allow violent disturbances to go unanswered and promised that justice would be served to “troublemakers.”
He also urged police to act responsibly and with restraint due to the fragile situation created with the discovery on Monday of the bodies of the three slain Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and the subsequent discovery of the body of the Palestinian teenager, 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in a Jerusalem forest two days later in what is increasingly believed to have been a reprisal attack.
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said Saturday that failed Israeli policies were to blame for the current escalation of violence.
Diskin said Arab rioting was hardly surprising when Israel was continuing to build in the West Bank while ignoring Palestinians’ statehood aspirations, rejecting the peace overtures of the Palestinian leadership, and disregarding the social gaps between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations.
“The deterioration (of the security situation) is first and foremost the result of the illusion that the government’s stagnation in every area actually keeps the situation at a standstill,” Diskin said in a Facebook post.
“The illusion that ‘Price Tag’ incidents are just a few slogans on walls and not blatant racism; the illusion that just a little more force will solve everything; the illusion that the Palestinians will put up with anything we do in the West Bank and won’t respond despite the anger and frustration and the worsening economic situation (there); the illusion that the international community won’t sanction us; that Israel’s frustrated Arab population won’t eventually head to the streets due to the lack of attention to their problems,” Diskin said.
Diskin warned that such an attitude would not hold water for long, and that the situation could deteriorate much further still.
“What’s happening in recent days could deteriorate much more, even if things calm down for a time – make no mistake,” he stated. “Because the huge internal stress will still be there. The concentration of gasoline fumes in the air will not go away, and if we don’t find a way to dilute it, the situation will become far worse.”
On Friday, Palestinian officials reported that the autopsy of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir, conducted jointly by Israeli and Palestinian pathologists, has revealed that the youth was still alive when he was set on fire. His funeral on Friday was attended by thousands and preceded and followed violent clashes with security forces in East Jerusalem which later spread to Israeli Arab towns, including Kalanswa, Tira, Taibe and Baqa al-Gharbiya.
Police arrested 31 people in connection with the rioting overnight Friday-Saturday in which hundreds of Arab Israelis burned tires and clashed with security forces.