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Clashes resume in Sheikh Jarrah, as firebrand MK vows to stay in eye of storm

Jerusalem mayor and police district commander agree to bolster forces in flashpoint neighborhood; Itamar Ben-Gvir, accused of provoking riots, returns to makeshift ‘bureau’

Police officers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Police officers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Clashes between Palestinians, right-wing Israeli Jews and police reignited in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Monday as far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir returned to his makeshift “office,” declaring that he will not budge from the flashpoint area.

The Red Crescent reported four injuries among Palestinian protesters in the violence, which allegedly included stones thrown at a home owned by Arabs.

Police used stun grenades to disperse a group of Palestinians in the neighborhood, according to Haaretz. No arrests were reported.

Video showed phalanxes of police chasing suspected stone-throwers and clearing streets.

Later police said that 6 people had been arrested for damaging cars and three others for throwing stones and attacking police.

One officer was wounded when a stone hit his head and was taken for medical treatment, police said.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said on Monday that he and Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman agreed to “significantly bolster police forces in the neighborhood, to boost residents’ feeling of safety.”

He also said he ordered his security division to immediately deploy security cameras to help protect the residents of the neighborhood and find perpetrators.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir holds a press conference at his makeshift office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Ben Gvir, who has been blamed for stoking tensions, told the media he is not leaving his so-called office — a plastic table under an awning.

“It’s nice here and I’m staying,” he quipped, his head covered in a bandage after fainting during a clash with cops on Sunday. “We own Israel. We own Jerusalem.”

He accused the government of abandoning Jewish families who have moved into the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, which has been at the center of tensions for some time, and said that the plan to help secure the neighborhood with more cameras, “is not serious.”

“Unless there is security, I am not moving,” he declared. “If there is security, I’ll move on to my next thing.”

Political leaders fear that the clashes in the neighborhood may bring about an escalation of the security situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An escalation at Sheikh Jarrah last May, similarly encouraged by Ben Gvir setting up such an “office” in the neighborhood, contributed to the tension that sparked an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas and long days of violence between Arabs and Jews inside the country last year.

Following the latest clashes, Hamas warned of a “severe” response, should Israel continue its “assaults” in East Jerusalem, a spokesperson for the Gaza-ruling terror group said.

“We call upon our people to support the people of Jerusalem by clashing with the occupation at friction points,” Mohammad Hamadeh told official Hamas television, possibly referring to West Bank locations where Palestinians frequently clash with Israeli troops.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Ben Gurion Airport before departing for Bahrain on February 14, 2022. (Haim Zach / GPO)

“We do not need provocateurs to come and set the area ablaze just for political goals. We need neither Ofer Cassif, nor Ben Gvir, nor [Ahmed] Tibi to run Jerusalem for us,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters before departing for a first visit to Bahrain, referring to a pair of MKs from the predominantly Arab Joint List party.

The premier said more police would be dispatched to the neighborhood to keep the peace. “The situation in which Jewish homes are set alight in Israel’s capital city is intolerable,” he said.

“We will deal with it and we will bring stability and security for the residents of the city. This is the responsibility of the government of Israel and nobody else.”

Interior Security Minister Omer Barlev backed the police in their efforts to quell the unrest and targeted Ben Gvir, saying that “those who maintain the security of the State of Israel are the police officers, the border guards, and the soldiers, not those who seek attention and open a plastic table in the middle of Sheikh Jarrah in the hope that Hamas will be the audience to their show.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the Israel Police National Headquarters in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

The minister added that “we are responsible for the security of the State of Israel determinedly, responsibly and quietly, while on the other side are actors who are making a show and waiting for Hamas to applaud them. Together they hope to ignite the Middle East.”

An unnamed police official told Channel 12 on Sunday that Ben Gvir had made a “substantial contribution” to the escalating violence.

Channel 13 news reported on Monday that Israeli officials are estimating that the tensions in Sheikh Jarrah will not lead to renewed violence along the Gaza border,

According to the report, officials see an escalation as unlikely due in part to the enclave’s state and Hamas not being prepared for an escalation. However, it did note that the terror group is working to rile-up Palestinians in the West Bank to clash with Israeli forces.

Earlier Monday, police announced that Israeli security forces had arrested two suspects in the firebombing of a Jewish home in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood over the weekend, which triggered the latest escalating tensions in the flashpoint neighborhood.

No one was home during the incident over the weekend. A police officer who entered the burning house was lightly hurt from smoke inhalation.

Officers found eight Molotov cocktails, gloves and a knit cap while searching the home of one of the suspects, according to a police statement, which said the Shin Bet security service took part in the arrests.

The suspects, both in their 20s, were taken in by the Shin Bet for questioning. Authorities did not say where they were from. The investigation was ongoing.

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