Rioting in the capital continued Monday night and throughout Tuesday, as tensions escalated following two deadly attacks in the Old City, home demolitions in east Jerusalem, and heated negotiations over the release of an accused terrorist’s corpse.
The violence was most acute in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Isawiya and Silwan, police said, where helicopters backed up officers on the ground during rioting that lasted for several hours overnight into Tuesday morning.
Tensions have been particularly high in Isawiya, where the funeral of Fadi Alon, 19, a terrorist who was shot early Sunday after stabbing a 15-year-old Israeli boy and charging police, has been delayed as police continue negotiations over the release of his corpse to avert violence.
Coupled by disturbances during Tuesday morning’s demolitions of two terrorists’ homes in Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, and the sealing of a third killer’s residence, police have utilized all 3,500 officers on the ground.
“Last night disturbances involving more than 50 masked Palestinians throwing firebombs and rocks at police continued until the early morning hours in Isawiya and Silwan,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“Police helicopter units were called in to back up ground units, which worked to carefully dispatch rioters in order to prevent injuries.” Although he said no injuries were reported, Arab media claimed that several rioters were wounded by stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Rosenfeld said six rioters were arrested during the violence, bringing the total number of arrests since rioting began last month to more than 250.
He added that an extra 1,000 officers from a range of units have been dispatched in the capital to reinforce the 2,500 officers assigned to flashpoint Arab neighborhoods, and in and around the Old City.
“Security assessments continue to be made and extra police will remain in the city until the situation eventually calms down,” said Rosenfeld.
Despite the uptick in violence, Rosenfeld said the 48-hour age restriction barring Muslim men under 50 from entering the Old City has been lifted, although it will remain in effect on the Temple Mount indefinitely.
He also dismissed claims in the media that a third intifada is under way.
“This is not an intifada,” he said. “On the scale of an intifada, we’ve dealt with much worse. Let’s put this into perspective: During the last intifada there were thousands of Palestinians on the streets carrying out attacks. Now we’re dealing with lone wolves.”
Rosenfeld added that the police have implemented a two-pronged preemptive and reactive approach to reigning in the violence.
“First, based on intelligence, we try to find potential terrorists and arrest them ahead of time,” he said. “When disturbances do take place, intensive police operations, including a wide range of units, respond immediately.”
While Rosenfeld said that units will continue to focus on Arab neighborhoods and the Old City, he noted that officers have also been assigned to public areas throughout the capital, including bus and train stations, malls and parks.
Meanwhile, former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, said Tuesday that using police force to solve the crisis is the equivalent of placing a band aid on a tumor.
“What is going on is terrible and I feel very depressed for the people who have been killed – Jewish and Arab,” Margalit said.
“But this was expected by people in touch with Palestinians on the ground. Everyone who is connected with Palestinian society knows that the tension was so high that it was just a matter of time until an explosion happened.”
Moreover, Margalit contended that the government and Jerusalem Municipality have “lost control” of east Jerusalem since chronic rioting began last July during Operation Protective Edge and the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, by not addressing the political underpinnings of the unrest.
“The government doesn’t understand that this is a political problem and not an issue of hooliganism,” he said. “It is a political problem that needs a political solution, not more police.”
Without negotiations with Palestinian leaders in east Jerusalem, Margalit said the violence will not stop, no matter how many officers are deployed to the capital.
“No one in the government or municipality realizes that what we need to do is enter in negotiations with Palestinians on the ground and address their problems and anger. If this doesn’t happen, all of us will collapse together.”
Indeed, Margalit said the municipality’s current model of a united capital, and exclusion of Palestinian representation in the city council, has failed.
“It can’t be that 31 Jewish councilmen manage the life of 300,000 lives in east Jerusalem,” he said.
“No Palestinians are in the city council to represent Palestinian interests in the city… We need to [afford] some kind of autonomy and self government to calm the situation.”