16 suspected of involvement in Silwan rioting arrested

By MELANIE LIDMAN, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
September 24, 2010 12:34

Police on heightened alert in e. Jerusalem and Old City as widespread riots could be possible after Friday prayers; view gallery of riots.




Jerusalem riots 4. (photo credit:Melanie Lidman)

Police arrested 16 men in east Jerusalem suspected of disturbing the peace overnight Thursday.

Nine were from Silwan, and seven from A-Tur.

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Police are on heightened alert in east Jerusalem and the Old City, following a day of intense rioting on Wednesday after a private security guard fatally shot a Silwan resident.

East Jerusalem was relatively calm on Thursday, and Succot events proceeded as planned throughout the city. Police reported a few scattered incidents of rock throwing by dozens of Arab youth in Silwan and near Isawiya, and one incident where a Jewish resident fired into the air following a confrontation with an Arab resident.

Both residents, as well as an Israeli security guard, were detained by the police.

On Thursday evening, rioters burned rubber tires and set off fire crackers near the Dung Gate. Police dispersed the rioting with tear gas and rubber bullets, and no injuries were reported.

Police said they would continue to have extra forces in east Jerusalem and the Old City to maintain the peace, as widespread riots could be possible after Friday prayers. They will also enforce age minimums on male worshipers entering the Temple Mount.

Ten people were injured on Wednesday, including a 35- year-old Israeli in moderate condition afer he was stabbed in the back near the Mount of Olives. Police reported that attendees threw stones at officers, vehicles and buses, causing injuries and damage, and that a police vehicle and several others were set alight near Jerusalem’s Old City.

Eight people were arrested for disturbing the peace, five at the Temple Mount and three on Derech Haofer, the road that leads from the Mount of Olives cemetery toward the Old City and back to Silwan.

Three Molotov cocktails were thrown at police stationed in the neighborhood.

Another four Molotov cocktails were hurled at the Beit Orot Yeshiva near the a-Tur neighborhood as well.

On Wednesday afternoon, riot police entered the Temple Mount to halt rock throwing onto the Western Wall below.

Three buses were destroyed by stoning near the Old City, injuring one of the drivers. The buses were missing all of their windows, and one had blood splattered on the driver’s seat.

Silwan resident Samr Sirkhan, 32, was killed early Wednesday morning when a security guard in a vehicle encountered trash bins blocking his route and fired his weapon after being bombarded with stones.

“According to an initial investigation, the guard encountered a preplanned ambush that put his life in danger, prompting him to open fire,” Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said on Wednesday evening.

The security company called it a “lynch” situation.

Police found two knives and a screwdriver on the body of the victim, who had a previous criminal history and was said to be associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Ofer Rosenman, manager of the security company, told Channel 2 News that Palestinians surrounded the vehicle.

“They threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, so the guard exited his vehicle and shot in the air and then shot at one of the people after he felt that they wanted to kidnap him.”

The security guard is employed by Modi’in Ezrahi (Civilian Intelligence), a company that protects Jews living in east Jerusalem including the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The company belongs to the Ministry of Construction and Housing and its role is to prevent attacks on residents and structures.

The security guard was arrested and taken for investigation by the police, though he was released later that afternoon on restricted bail, according to police.

A neighborhood resident said this was the first time a private guard had fatally shot an Arab resident. In two previous incidents, which happened years ago, the guards shot residents in the legs.

“Before they shoot they need to warn us, they need to notify the people, and they didn’t,” said a neighbor of the victim.

“Usually they shoot up to the sky, they don’t shoot people in the face.”

Sirkhan was a father of five who sold goats and other animals for a living. His oldest son is 12.

“There’s going to be a huge mess in Silwan, something big will happen. They killed a man – what should I do, be quiet? What about his family, his little kids?” asked another neighbor of the victim, who wished to remain anonymous in fear of police reprisal.

“This was a calculated, violent act with political goals,” Dimitri Diliani, the head of Fatah’s Social Development Committee, told The Jerusalem Post as he stood with mourners outside the family’s house. “We view it as a right-wing Israeli effort to undermine the peace process and to draw Palestinians into violent action so that the rightwing government will be provided with a window of opportunity to escape into national pressure regarding illegal settlement activities.”

Hundreds of men gathered outside of Sirkham’s house waiting for the body to be delivered. When the convoy of cars carrying his body arrived around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the crowd swelled to more than a thousand to accompany the body to the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Local Fatah and PA leaders spent much of the past two days trying to calm situation in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods that had experienced violence after Sirkham’s death, saying that violence would only provide Israel with a convenient excuse to end peace negotiations.

The last time major riots erupted in Silwan was an eightday period in June, immediately after Mayor Nir Barkat’s Gan HaMelech/Al-Bustan plan was approved by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee.

The plan calls for an archeology park to be established in the Al-Bustan neighborhood, and the municipality wants to retroactively approve 66 buildings which lack permits, and destroy 22 buildings. The initial approval was one in a series of many steps in the approval process, and has been met with widespread condemnation from the international community.

The June riots injured 10 security guards and dozens of residents.



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