Police deploy 4 reserve companies amid growing unrest in East Jerusalem

Minister says restrictions on Shuafat refugee camp to be eased despite intensive search for Palestinian gunman; settlers and Palestinians clash in northern West Bank

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A police officer is seen in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, during clashes with Palestinians, on October 12, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
A police officer is seen in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, during clashes with Palestinians, on October 12, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev on Thursday ordered an immediate call-up of four police reserve companies amid rising unrest in East Jerusalem, following hours of clashes in Palestinian neighborhoods throughout the city the previous night.

Despite the planned mobilization of forces, Barlev noted that restrictions on the Shuafat refugee camp, where the bulk of the violence has taken place, would be eased as much as possible.

“The incidents that took place last night are very serious, and the Israel Police acted with determination to restore peace, and it achieved that,” Barlev said in remarks provided by his office.

Officials said Thursday morning that 23 people had been detained in connection with the rioting in Jerusalem over the past days, with nine detained in raids on their homes in Issawiya on suspicion of involvement in the violence.

“Along with the bolstering of police and Border Police forces… our intention is to expand freedom of movement for the residents of the Shuafat refugee camp, most of whom wish to carry on with their normal lives,” Barlev said.

The refugee camp has seen heavy police activity in recent days, as forces search for a Palestinian gunman who killed an Israeli soldier at a nearby checkpoint on Saturday.

Palestinian youths clash with Israeli security forces in the Shuafat Refugee Camp, Jerusalem, October 12, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

“All of this comes without compromising on the operational considerations of the security forces,” Barlev added.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid held a meeting with Barlev, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, police chief Kobi Shabtai and other law enforcement officials on Thursday regarding the unrest.

In remarks provided by his office, Lapid said Israel was “determined” to let festivities during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot go ahead in Jerusalem while acting with a “strong and uncompromising hand against terror and violent disturbances.”

“Security forces will not stop until they catch the terrorists and their dispatchers,” he added.

Police officials said the four reserve companies — two in Jerusalem itself and two in areas surrounding East Jerusalem — would be deployed Friday morning.

Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails, launched fireworks and set tires and garbage dumpsters on fire in several neighborhoods through Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday, as riots over the closure of the Shuafat refugee camp spread to other areas of the city, sparking some of the heaviest fighting seen there in over a year.

Police have been searching Shuafat for Udai Tamimi, who allegedly committed the shooting attack that left Sgt. Noa Lazar dead, and another guard, David Morel, hospitalized in serious condition.

Officers respond to rioting in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood on October 12, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police said two officers were lightly injured by shrapnel from a pipe bomb in the neighborhood of Issawiya on Wednesday night.

All through the night, explosions from fireworks and stun grenades echoed through parts of the capital, with clashes reported in neighborhoods throughout East Jerusalem.

But Barlev said the incidents were under control. “Contrary to various publications, the events were under the control of the police, the riots did not endanger the rest of the city and did not trickle out beyond East Jerusalem,” he said.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman visit the scene of the attack at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, October 9, 2022. (Israel Police)

The rioting came as Jewish Israelis were celebrating the Sukkot holiday, which generally draws thousands of visitors to Jerusalem and its Old City, often raising tensions with Palestinian residents.

The violence in Jerusalem also came amid rising unrest in the West Bank, where sporadic clashes were reported on Thursday.

A seven-year-old Israeli boy was lightly hurt when Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli vehicles in the Huwara area in the northern West Bank, medics said.

According to Palestinian media reports and footage published online, dozens of settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar, some armed with batons, arrived at the scene and clashed with Palestinians in response.

Footage also showed Israeli soldiers alongside the settlers as they attacked Palestinians in Huwara, with one firing into the air.

Several Palestinians were reportedly hurt in the clash.

As the Israel Defense Forces maintains a large presence in the West Bank, soldiers are often on the scene of such attacks and are regularly seen standing by as they occur. Though soldiers are legally permitted — even required in some cases — to intervene to prevent violent attacks, regardless of nationality, the military generally prefers to leave the arrests of Israeli settlers to the police.

Huwara has long been a flashpoint in the West Bank as it is just about the only Palestinian town through which Israelis regularly travel in order to reach settlements in the northern West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from the IDF on the clashes in Huwara.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly hurling stones at Israeli cars near Hebron, and on Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed in a shooting near Nablus while securing a settler march.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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