A view of the Old City of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two firebombs thrown at a Jewish residence in Jerusalem’s integrated Abu Tor neighborhood Saturday night shattered a tenuous calm in the community, largely sustained by months of heavy policing.
At approximately 9 p.m., police say unidentified suspects targeted the house, located on a street adjacent to numerous Arab residences, setting its exterior on fire, before fleeing into the night.
Fire and Rescue Services arrived at the scene within minutes to extinguish the blaze, as responding officers searched the area for the assailants to no avail.
No injuries were reported, police said.
The attack comes after a pronounced drop in violence in what was once a flashpoint neighborhood during the chronic rioting that engulfed much of east Jerusalem last year following the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and Operation Protective Edge.
Nightly violence there, and in other Arab communities, has since largely been contained by the emergency deployment of 1,000 extra Border Police officers patrolling troubled areas.
However, according to east Jerusalem Portfolio head Meir Margalit, the police-enforced calm belies ongoing simmering anger among Arab residents, which he said will continue to boil over periodically unless their concerns are effectively addressed.
“For one side, it is clear that the police have succeeded in controlling the situation,” said Margalit on Sunday.
“For the other side, it’s clear that the frustration is still there; that the anger on the ground is considerable. And without trying to deal with the reasons for the uprising these kinds of incidents will continue.”
Asked what underlying factors are driving Arab unrest in Abu Tor and east Jerusalem, Margalit replied that it is “a matter of dignity.”
“The people feel that the government humiliates them every day, and without dignity this feeling will not disappear,” he said. “Nobody in the municipality or government has made the effort to understand what is going on on the ground, and that is why from time to time violence will come back.”
Margalit added that extreme policing is systemic to the problem, and only serves as a Band Aid for a far more serious ailment.
“You can control them for a while, but sooner or later the situation will explode if nobody pays attention to the deep reasons for the anger,” he said.
Describing the preceding calm in the neighborhood as tense and unsettling, Abu Tor resident Bonnie Brooks agreed that beneath the quiet is an atmosphere rife with friction between Jewish and Arab neighbors.
“Until now it’s been very quiet, almost too quiet,” she said. “I still say hello to [Arab] neighbors when I walk my dogs, but there is tension. My husband and I joked that things are back to normal. Isn’t that sad?” Moreover, Brooks said a “wall” continues to separate the two communities.
“Everybody would like it to be more comfortable, and that there is not a wall between Arabs and Jews living here,” she said.
Meanwhile, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police will continue to work to restore quiet.
“This isn’t the first firebomb attack on Jewish homes in the Abu Tor area, and police are continuing to patrol the neighborhood with an emphasis on preventing incidents like this,” he said.