Police arrested 51 people suspected of taking part in violent demonstrations in the Issawiya neighborhood of the capital, in sweeping raids early Monday morning involving hundreds of officers and helicopter support, police said.
In addition to the arrests, police also inspected the licenses of local businesses during the overnight raids to check that they were up to date and ensured that people sentenced to house arrest were complying with court orders.
Buses were brought in to transport the suspects, whose hands were bound with zipties. In video released by the police, a helicopter could be seen overhead, providing backup to the hundreds of Israel Police and Border Police officers on the ground.
The dead-of-night raid drew criticism from Jerusalem’s left-leaning Ir Amim organization, which lambasted it as counterproductive.
“Mass arrests under the cover of darkness and hundreds of armed Border Police officers in residential buildings will not bring quiet to the residents of Jerusalem,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a member of the group.
Tatarsky accused police of using “disproportionate force,” which he said will “only aggravate the split” between the Jewish and Arab residents of the capital.
In a statement, police said they also worked to “improve the quality of life” of Issawiya residents.
East Jerusalemites often complain of being neglected by the municipality and denied basic services.
Police said municipal workers emptied dumpsters and took away the trash as part of the raid, which was dubbed “Operation 700.”
Jerusalem Police Commissioner Yoram Halevi called for the raid to include both aspects — the mass arrests on one hand, and the provision of municipal services on the other — police said.
The workers also took down signs that were blocking sidewalks, fixed streetlights and removed graffiti.
“An emphasis was placed on the area of [Issawiya’s] school, where community police officers marked off sidewalks and crosswalks, and removed security hazards from the area in order to ensure the safety of students who attend the school,” police said.
The Jerusalem mayor’s office disagreed with police statement’s implication that these municipal services were out of the ordinary or contingent upon police action.
Ben Avrahami, a municipal employee responsible for East Jerusalem, recognized that there are still “gaps” in the services being provided to Arab neighborhoods of the city, but said that the overall trend is improving.
“We are there every day,” Avrahami said, speaking to The Times of Israel over the phone.
It wasn’t immediately clear why police checked the licenses of local businesses during the early-morning raid rather than during daylight hours. Police did not respond to a request for explanation.
The 51 people arrested were suspected of taking part in violent protests and riots, which included the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails at police vehicles, based on “evidence and information about their participation,” the police said.
The more than four dozen suspects were brought in to police stations around the city for questioning and are expected to be brought before a judge later Monday for remand hearings, police said.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a response from the Jerusalem municipality