Heavy clashes seen across East Jerusalem amid surging Palestinian unrest
Two cops injured; car with Jewish family forced to flee after stoned; footage shows hail of fireworks and police car surrounded by flames as fighting spreads beyond Shuafat
Rioting Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in several locations across East Jerusalem Wednesday night and early Thursday, as forces continued to hunt for a Palestinian suspected of a deadly shooting attack on a checkpoint days earlier.
Protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, launched fireworks and set tires and garbage dumpsters on fire in several neighborhoods, blocking roads as they faced off against Border Police officers deployed in Palestinian areas of the capital.
Two officers were lightly injured from what authorities suspected was shrapnel from pipe bombs hurled at them in Issawiya, Jerusalem police said.
Earlier in the evening, police said Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a Border Police position at the Qalandia crossing near Jerusalem, without causing any injuries. Troops stationed in the area returned fire and were searching for the suspects who fired from the nearby town.
Police said earlier that five people were arrested during the rioting, which came amid rocketing tensions 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.
There have been several days of rioting in Shuafat, where Israeli forces have imposed a closure since Saturday night following a shooting attack at a nearby checkpoint that killed a Border Police officer and severely wounded a civilian guard. The gunman is thought to have fled into the refugee camp.
The fighting appeared to spread across Palestinian areas of the city Wednesday following a general strike held by the city’s Palestinian residents to protest the manhunt and closure.
The rioting, some of the heaviest the city has seen in over a year, came as Jewish Israelis were celebrating the Sukkot holiday, which generally draws thousands of visitors to Jerusalem and its Old City, oftening 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.
תיעוד | שוטרים סופגים ירי זיקוקים ממתפרעים בשכונת ראס אל עמוד במזרח ירושלים@VeredPelman pic.twitter.com/Iq5Dlvqf2C
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 12, 2022
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.
בירת ישראל הלילה pic.twitter.com/OjDxwNWEbU
— אבי גדלוביץ' (@avigad27) October 12, 2022
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said police and Border Police gendarmes 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.
⭕️ شاهد | إحراق جيب شرطة يتبع للاحتلال في القدس المحتلة، وسط مواجهات عنيفة جداً. pic.twitter.com/20JXDKVrXV
— صوت الأقصى – عاجل (@Alaqsavoice_Brk) October 12, 2022
The rioting sparked calls by right-wing politicians for more severe measures.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who toured Beit Hanina late Wednesday and called it a “warzone in ever sense.” She called for a raft of moves to quell the rioting, including stripping offenders of citizenship, 10-year-jail terms, a cordon around the area and looser open-fire rules, as well as a general call-up of Border Police reservists.
Ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir also walked through East Jerusalem and urged Barlev to allow police to use live fire against rioters. His political partner Boaz Smotrich called for the military to be deployed to the city to put down the unrest.
Table set for Joseph’s Tomb battle
Security forces were also gearing up for further clashes in the West Bank as a group of Jewish pilgrims got the go-ahead from the military to visit Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus overnight. Forces sealed off Nablus earlier in the day following the deadly shooting attack there Tuesday, and residents of the city also observed Wednesday’s general strike.
An armed Palestinian faction calling itself the Lion’s Den had vowed to confront the pilgrims, who were being escorted by Israel’s army.
The group — based in Nablus’s old city — was established in recent months by members of various terror groups. Some of its members were apparently previously affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It had claimed the responsibility for Tuesday’s shooting.
The army routinely escorts Jewish worshipers to the shrine, but recently such visits were postponed, following repeated shooting attacks in the area.
The number of visitors to be allowed in Wednesday night is subject to an assessment that will be determined by military officials.
Tensions in the West Bank have spiked, as Israeli forces have ratcheted up arrest raids and other counterterror efforts that Palestinians say inflame anger, following a string of attacks earlier in the year that left 19 dead in Israel.
The northern West Bank has seen a surge in violence in recent months, with Palestinian gunmen targeting military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.