Police arrested over 20 people, including some minors, in Arab-majority towns in northern Israel and East Jerusalem early Friday morning, amid simmering unrest in Arab communities against a background of violence in the capital and rocket barrages from Lebanon blamed on Gaza-based Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Arrests over the riots were made in East Jerusalem and the Arab towns of Nazareth, Sakhnin, Baqa al-Gharbiya and Kafr Manda, the Israel Police said in a statement.
In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor, suspects shot fireworks and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the homes of Jewish residents. Border Police officers fired with a Ruger rifle toward the suspects, hitting one of them. Backup forces arrived and began searching for the other suspects who had fled.
The .22-caliber round from a Ruger rifle is considered less lethal than the larger caliber rounds typically used by the military. Human rights groups have condemned the use of the rifle for riot control, as it can still kill. Troops typically fire the Ruger rifle at the lower body of rioters, rather than at the head which can be deadly.
Police said they were also looking into a report received that one of the residents whose home was attacked discharged a firearm.
Meanwhile in Kafr Qasim, cars were set ablaze and “price tag” graffiti was scrawled on a nearby fence, apparently by extremist Jews, with police opening a hate crime investigation. “Price tag” is a name given by ultranationalists to attacks against random Arabs or Palestinians, intended as revenge for attacks on Jews.
— שילה פריד (@shilofreid) April 7, 2023
Earlier in Abu Tor, police arrested two suspects who detonated fireworks as a weapon against officers and a third man who tried to interfere with the arrest.
Police also arrested a man north of the Old City on suspicion that he threatened passengers on a passing bus with a stick. The suspect, 20, a resident of the Old City, was taken in for questioning.
Riots in Nazareth.
Those footages are a reminder of 2021 riots, also during the month of Ramadan pic.twitter.com/sVs8rWd8kn
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) April 6, 2023
In other disturbances in the north of the country, 17 people were arrested on suspicion of disturbing public order. Police said the detainees were taken in for questioning and that some might be brought for remand hearings later in the day.
Police said that in Nazareth, Sakhnin and Kafr Manda, protesters ignited tires as well as other objects and also threw stones and lit fireworks. Protesters called out hate slogans and tried to block roads, the statement said. In Baqa al-Gharbiya, masked protesters threw rocks at police and an adult along with four minors were arrested. A search of their possessions uncovered fireworks, explosives, and a pellet gun.
The police statement said local mayors were working with the force to restore order in the northern Arab communities. Police called on local religious leaders, education figures and parents to rein in youths and prevent them from engaging in violent behavior, warning that the continued unrest could lead to physical injuries as well as damaging community relations for years to come.
Another two suspects were arrested during clashes in Umm al-Fahm, also in northern Israel, where police on Thursday evening said dozens of people had gathered to throw rocks at police and burn tires in the city.
It was the second night of unrest in a spillover of violent tensions from Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on the flashpoint Temple Mount site, where skirmishes between police and worshipers at the mosque quickly escalated at the start of the Passover holiday on Wednesday.
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip then fired rockets toward Israel, further stoking concerns of a broader flareup. There were also dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon which Israel blamed on the Gaza-based Hamas terror group.
The IDF responded by bombing Hamas sites in Gaza. More rockets were fired from the Palestinian coastal enclave overnight Thursday, drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and in southern Lebanon.
An Israeli soldier was also hurt in a shooting attack in the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem.
Security officials had feared an escalation due to the Muslim Ramadan holiday, which often sees a spike in Israeli-Palestinian tensions, and coincides this year with Passover and Easter. Passover began on Wednesday evening. The first two weeks of Ramadan passed by relatively smoothly.
On Tuesday, police said they had entered Al-Aqsa after masked youths barricaded themselves inside the mosque atop the Temple Mount with fireworks, clubs and rocks and refused to come out peacefully. Officers apparently believed the group intended to assault Jews visiting the mount on Passover Eve.
The fighting raised fears of a wider conflagration. Similar clashes two years ago erupted into a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.