ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem call for general strike, civil disobedience

Organizers in Shuafat refugee camp say increased police activity part of ‘policy of harassment’ following spate of terror attacks; Issawiya, Jabel Mukaber, Anata residents to join

Israeli security forces at the scene of a terror attack where an Israeli Border Police officer was critically hurt after being stabbed at a checkpoint in Shuafat, East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. The officer later died. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli security forces at the scene of a terror attack where an Israeli Border Police officer was critically hurt after being stabbed at a checkpoint in Shuafat, East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. The officer later died. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem are preparing for a general strike on Sunday as part of a call for civil disobedience in four areas in the eastern part of the capital, organizers announced on Saturday.

The move comes in response to increased Israeli police activity in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp over the past week, amid high tensions following a spate of terror attacks in the capital. On Monday, a police officer was killed following a stabbing attack at a checkpoint near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp, just hours after a 14-year-old Palestinian, also from the camp, stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli teenager in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Last Friday, three Israelis — including two brothers aged 6 and 8 — were killed in a car-ramming terror attack in East Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood. The attacker was identified as an Israeli citizen and resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya.

In response, the police ramped up its presence and expanded operations in East Jerusalem, specifically Shuafat, angering residents who decried “the policy of harassment and aggression by the Israeli authorities — including the police” over the past week, according to a statement from organizers cited by Hebrew media.

They said police forces were carrying out intensive operations in the refugee camp, including arrests, physical searches, delays at checkpoints, and traffic disruption. Activists in the Shuafat camp told Haaretz that the police was engaging in “vindictive harassment” of the residents under pressure from far-right lawmaker National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

On Saturday, organizers in Issawiya and Jabel Mukaber, as well as the West Bank town of Anata near the Shuafat refugee camp, said residents would also strike and engage in civil disobedience in these areas.

Israeli security forces gather at the entrance to east Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp following a stabbing attack on February 13, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Organizers called in a press statement for Palestinian laborers to not show up for work with Israeli employers starting at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, and for residents to avoid using state services and paying municipal bills “in response to the daily crimes of the occupation government against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem.”

They also said main road entrances to Shuafat and Anata would be blocked to traffic.

“We call on the Palestinian people in all the regions of the homeland and in particular in the Jerusalem district to show solidarity and support the steps of the struggle, to correct the injustice suffered by the residents of the region at the oppressive and racist checkpoints,” the statement read.

In an interview Saturday evening, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said police were operating against “perpetrators of crime and of terror” in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Shabtai insisted the operations “surgically” target suspects and that the force was not interested in collective punishment.

“There are more than a few warnings of attacks, in recent weeks we’ve seen a tangible increase in the number of warnings. Our concern is the unknown — lone-wolf attackers. I wouldn’t call the situation now an intifada, but there is an escalation,” he said.

The scene of a Palestinian attack at the entrance to Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (Israel Police)

To help prevent attacks, Shabtai said citizens with gun licenses should carry their weapons, conceding that “it’s not possible to have police on every corner all the time.”

Earlier this month, Ben Gvir expedited the civilian gun license process, reportedly leading to a sharp rise in the number of permits issued by the ministry’s Firearms Licensing Department.

Shabtai said there was a need for more weapons on the street, which “have succeeded in foiling attacks in the past.” He called for the licensing process to remain thorough so “weapons won’t end up in the wrong hands.”

In a segment of the interview aired Friday, the police commissioner insisted he would not step down from his post, after a lawmaker from the far-right Otzma Yehudit party warned that Shabtai would be removed if he did not start falling in line.

The declaration appeared to mark a further escalation in the power struggle between Shabtai and Otzma Yehudit leader Ben Gvir, who recently lashed out at Jerusalem cops for not using force during an anti-government protest, and slammed officers over the demolition of an illegal West Bank grove.

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