Public security minister pledges safety for shaken Jerusalem residents following recent riots

During recent violent protests following the death of an Arab youth allegedly killed by a police sponge-covered bullet during a riot, witness says police "just watched and came at the last minute."

September 10, 2014 06:23
3 minute read.
east jerusalem arabs

Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israel Police in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz September 7, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Two days after a gas station in the capital’s French Hill neighborhood nearly went up in flames when fire bombs were thrown at fuel pumps during an Arab riot, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the site of the attack, vowing to ensure the residents’ safety.

Amid concerned residents and the media Tuesday afternoon, Aharonovitch condemned the violence that erupted there following the death of Muhammad Abd al-Majid Sunuqrut, 16, one week after allegedly being struck in the head by a sponge-covered police bullet during a riot.

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On Sunday night dozens of youths looted the station’s store – located adjacent to the Arab neighborhood of Isawiya, long a flashpoint for violence – throwing rocks at two Arab attendants, and attempting to spark a massive explosion.

“It can’t go on like this,” said Aharonovitch.

“You feel insecure and I am committed to provide you with security. The residents are correct in feeling a lack of security following stone-throwing and harassment. It is the government’s responsibility to provide residents with security.”

Despite the minister’s pledge to secure the area with reinforcements, moments after he left the station, masked Palestinians threw rocks at the light rail and police officers in the nearby Shuafat neighborhood. Hours later, a Border Police officer was lightly wounded in during a rock attack in the neighborhood of Abu Dis. Meanwhile, witnesses to Sunday’s attempted firebombing of the gas station claimed that police sat idly by for 20 minutes as vandals threw rocks at the station’s workers, stole a cash register, plundered its convenience store and threw fire bombs.

“The workers here saw four police cars 100 meters away and they did nothing,” said an Arab employee at the station, who requested anonymity, fearing for his safety. “Look at what they did,” he continued upon displaying pictures taken of the scene on his smart phone sent by a witness.

In the images, shattered glass was splayed across the floor, cabinets holding food and beverages were upended and fires could be seen near the gas pumps.

“The police were here and saw the [rioters] coming and did nothing,” he said after putting the phone down with mixture of disgust and incredulity in his eyes. “My cousin was working that night and he hit the alarm button under the counter four times and called the police, but they just sat there watching.”

The worker said that his cousin initially locked the station’s door to keep the vandals out, but when police didn’t arrive after the first 10 minutes, he fled the scene to seek safety.

“When he ran out the door was open again, and they came in and stole the cash register, cigarettes, food and threw everything else on the ground,” he said.

Witness Muhammad Abu Hawa confirmed the employee’s allegations of police inactivity.

“They were right there,” said Hawa as he pointed out the shop window. “They just watched and came at the last minute. They knew what was happening here, but still waited 20 minutes. It was as if they were waiting for the worst to happen.”

Moreover, Osama Jwells, who said he witnessed the riot, said that there is a police station just down the road.

“It’s just sad,” he said. “The police and government are racist.”

Asked to respond to the damning accusations, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld conceded on Tuesday that much damage occurred at the station, but claimed the police response was prompt.

“Police units quickly responded in the area, however there was heavy damage to the shop and gas station,” he said. “We are examining surveillance footage and future arrests will be made.”

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