Jerusalem police began on Sunday to place portable concrete slabs between the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv in the capital’s southeast and the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, in a bid to stem a series of terrorist and Molotov cocktail attacks carried out in the area over the past weeks.
The move followed the placing of concrete blocks in roads leading out of many Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods, in a move criticized by some as de facto splitting the unified city.
The concrete wall, 300 meters long and about five meters high, was intended “to prevent the throwing of firebombs at the houses on Meir Nakar Street [in Armon Hanatziv] and to prevent the loss of life. It means nothing more,” a police spokeswoman said.
Speaking with The Times of Israel, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality stressed that the construction of the barrier was not a long-term solution to firebomb attacks but a temporary measure aimed at restoring calm to the residents of Armon Hanatziv.
A statement from the city described the area as having “a history of stone-throwing and firebombings against Jewish homes and vehicles.”
The southern Jerusalem neighborhood has been the site of a series of attacks over the last several weeks, including a deadly stoning attack a month ago, a fatal shooting and knifing spree on a bus last week, a stabbing attempt on Saturday, and a number of Molotov cocktail attacks.
Many of the attackers in the current spate of violence have come from Jabel Mukaber, which borders Armon Hanatziv.
Also Sunday, a bill expanding the rules by which police can stop and search potential suspects was approved by Israeli ministers. The cabinet voted unanimously in favor of amending the current law to allow officers to carry out bodily searches even without reasonable suspicion that the object of their search is carrying a weapon.
The new amendment, titled “Police officers’ frisking authority,” will allow police officers to search any individual’s body, clothes and bags even if there is no reason to suspect the person is carrying a weapon and/or intending to use it. Currently, the law only allows frisking if police have sufficient reason to suspect the person is concealing a weapon.
In other efforts to prevent attacks, the security cabinet of high-level ministers approved last week the deployment of hundreds of IDF troops in Jerusalem as well as a partial lockdown on several Arab neighborhoods in the city.
Other courses of action passed included the demolition of terrorists’ homes within days of attacks and the banning of new construction, the confiscation of property belonging to terrorists who carry out attacks, and the revoking of permanent residency rights from their families.
Restrictions on gun licenses for Israelis have been eased to allow all IDF officers above the rank of lieutenant and non-commissioned officers from the rank of first sergeant and up to obtain a permit. Parallel ranks in the police and other security services may do the same.
Judah Ari Gross and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.