Tense, rain-swept Jerusalem sees sporadic violence
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Tense, rain-swept Jerusalem sees sporadic violence

Police arrest a handful of rock-throwers as city prepares for Muslim prayers, demonstrations on Temple Mount

Palestinian youth clash with Israeli police in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem, October 30, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Palestinian youth clash with Israeli police in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem, October 30, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As rain poured down on Jerusalem Friday morning, a tense city witnessed a trickle of violent incidents.

Some 3,000 police were deployed throughout the city ahead of expected protests and violence amid spiraling Jewish-Arab tensions in the capital.

Two residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, both aged 22, were arrested after police observed them preparing to throw stones at the Jerusalem Light Rail as it passed through their neighborhood.

Police approached the two, who were holding a slingshot and rocks, but they fled. After a brief pursuit, they were arrested and were to be brought for a remand hearing later Friday at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.

At 5 a.m., a bus headed from Jerusalem to the Ben Gurion International Airport on Road 443, which passes through the West Bank, was struck by rocks thrown by Palestinians standing at the side of the road. The front and side-door windows were damaged in the attack.

Police arrested a Palestinian in the village of Sawahra, near Ma’ale Adumim, overnight Thursday, finding two Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition in his home.

The Israel Defense Forces also arrested three Palestinians in the northern West Bank early Friday for participating in violent demonstrations and throwing firebombs.

One was arrested in a village south of Jenin, and two others near Nablus.

Police were on high alert and access to the Temple Mount was opened Friday to Muslim worshipers, though men under 50 were barred from the site.

Israel closed the compound completely Thursday to prevent further clashes. The move sparked Palestinian anger and international concern over the closure of the Temple Mount for the first time in years.

The Palestinian Fatah faction called for a “Day of Rage” to protest against the closure and the death of East Jerusalemite Mu’taz Hijazi, suspected to be behind the attempted assassination of Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick on Wednesday night.

Mu'taz Hijazi, in an undated photo. (photo credit: Flash90)
Mu’taz Hijazi, in an undated photo. (photo credit: Flash90)

Police said they killed Hijazi after he opened fire on them during an arrest attempt. Palestinian officials charged Hijazi was killed in cold blood. Adnan Gaith, the head of Fatah in Jerusalem, called the killing “terrorism.”

Hijazi was buried outside Jerusalem’s Old City late Thursday night with a heavy police presence to prevent the funeral becoming a riot, said an AFP journalist at the scene.

Despite a court order limiting the number of mourners to 45, about 300 people followed his body into the cemetery, but police did not try to stop them by force.

Glick, a US-born activist who has lobbied for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount — known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims — was shot four times Wednesday night while leaving a Jerusalem conference. He was still in serious condition Friday morning.

The shooting heightened tensions in the city, which has seen several weeks of unrest in a number of flashpoint neighborhoods, including rock-throwing incidents, Molotov cocktail attacks and clashes with police by firework-armed protesters. Police presence in the city has been beefed up in an effort to quell the unrest, which flared earlier this month after a Palestinian man drove his car into a crowded train station, killing two.

Police chief Yohanan Danino seen with Border Police officers after speaking to the press in Jerusalem, October 30, 2014. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Police chief Yohanan Danino seen with Border Police officers after speaking to the press in Jerusalem, October 30, 2014. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Thursday saw sporadic riots around East Jerusalem, including in Abu Tor, Jabel Mukaber and the Old City.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem said it would bar its officials from entering the Old City on Friday out of fear of unrest, and urged caution for US citizens in East Jerusalem.

Much of the anger on the Arab street was directed against the closure of the Temple Mount.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the closure aimed “to prevent riots and escalation, as well as to restore calm and the status quo to the Holy Places.”

Officials from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which administers the compound, said it was the first closure since Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, though Israeli media said it had been closed in 2000.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) stands next to the Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein (R) outside Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque on October 27, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) stands next to the Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein (R) outside Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock mosque on October 27, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)

“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said through his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, warning it would only fuel “more tension and instability.”

Jordan’s Islamic affairs minister, Hayel Daoud, said it amounted to a case of Israeli “state terrorism.” Under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, Jordan has responsibility for Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry called for Israel to open the site and keep the status quo in the compound, where Jewish prayer is currently banned.

Any change, he said in a statement, would be “provocative and dangerous.”

Kerry said he was in touch with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to calm tensions.

AFP contributed to this report.

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