Police arrest e. J'lem rock-throwing gang leaders

Over past 18 months, gang threw rocks and firecrackers at patrols of police, border patrol, and the Beit Yehonatan House.

January 30, 2012 13:37
2 minute read.
Palestinian throws stone at W. Bank demonstration

Palestinian throws a stone at West Bank demonstration 311 (R. (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)

Police arrested five Arab youths from the capital’s Silwan neighborhood over the past month accused of being part of a gang that throws rocks at police officers.

The gang, called the Milad Ayyish Battalion, was named after a 17-year-old member who was killed from a bullet to the stomach during Nakba Day riots in Silwan in May.

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Over the past year and a half, the gang threw rocks and firecrackers at patrols of police, border police and the Beit Yehonatan residential building in dozens of incidents, police said.

The stone-throwing damaged police jeeps and patrol cars as well as Beit Yehonatan, a heavily guarded building that is home to seven Jewish families and is often the scene of conflict.

Police indicted the five males, three of whom are under the age of 18, in the Jerusalem District Court on Monday. All five are under house arrest. Police believe the gang started as a response to the death in September 2010 of Silwan resident Samr Sirkhan, 35. Sirkhan was killed by a private-security guard patrolling near Beit Yehonatan, who said he found himself in a “lynch situation” when a group of residents threw stones at him.

Initially, the gang members called themselves the Battalion of the Martydom of Samr Sirkhan, but they changed the name after gang member Ayyish, from the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud just north of Silwan, was killed in May 2011.

The youths apparently wore clothes with the insignia of the Milad Ayyish Battalion to identify themselves.

The five suspects were indicted for conspiracy to commit a crime, attempted arson, attacking a police officer with the intent to seriously injure, disturbing the peace, and carrying and producing weapons.

Jerusalem Police deputy spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi expressed optimism that the arrests would reduce the number of rock-throwing attacks.

“Every arrest and every indictment helps. This is a gang that’s responsible for dozens of incidents, so of course it will affect the number of incidents,” she said.

Bajshi added that there are a number of stone-throwing gangs in east Jerusalem, loosely organized groups of teenagers, but that many young residents also throw rocks independently.

Meir Indor of the Almagor Victims of Terror Organization, who was lightly wounded by rocks in Ras al-Amud at the intersection next to the Mount of Olives cemetery in 2010, said students from a nearby middle school regularly throw rocks at that intersection after classes are done for the day. He called it their “after school activity.”

In 2010, Silwan averaged four stone-throwing attacks per day, according to police statistics. Bajshi said the police are not focusing on breaking up gangs, but rather going after as many stone-throwers as possible.

“Everyone caught with a stone in his hand will be arrested,” she said.

However, the young age of many of the rock-throwers makes it difficult for police to stop them. The age of criminal responsibility is 12, and if a stonethrower is younger than 12, police are unable to punish the child beyond appealing to their parents.

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