E. J'lem ‘Nakba Day’ protests ‘quieter’ than expected

By MELANIE LIDMAN
May 16, 2011 03:00

Violence spreads to Isawiya; 400 try to block road in Walaja; police save woman and her two children from fire started by errant Molotov cocktail.

4 minute read.



Police in east Jerusalem on 'Nakba Day'

Police in east Jerusalem on 'Nakba Day' 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The streets of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya were strewn with rubble and smoldering trash on “Nakba Day” on Sunday.

Dozens of youth darted between the buildings and used dumpsters for shields as they threw rocks at police forces moving up and down the steep main street of the neighborhood.

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Thirty six people were arrested for throwing stones and disturbing the peace across east Jerusalem, including nine in Isawiya.

Police said Nakba events in Jerusalem were “much quieter” than they had expected, according to Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby.

Ben-Ruby said that the large physical presence of security forces deployed across the city as well as frequent arrests played a fundamental part in deterring more intense violence.

There were scattered events of stone-throwing and violence in the Shuafat refugee camp and A-Tur. Additionally, roughly 400 left-wingers and Arabs protested in the neighborhood of Walaja on Sunday afternoon and tried to block the road.

Ben-Ruby added that police expect the situation to calm significantly in the coming days, and that security forces will be constantly monitoring intelligence to decide whether to decrease the number of patrols on the streets of east Jerusalem.

In Isawiya, the acrid smell of tear gas hung in the air from early morning, with security forces using tear gas, rubber bullets, and shock grenades to try and stop the stone-throwing.

The stone-throwers in Isawiya, which is located in northeast Jerusalem south of the Hebrew University, at times reached the rear gate of Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus.

Three Molotov cocktails were thrown inside the rear gate of the hospital and exploded, but there were no injuries and no damages.

At one point on Sunday afternoon, police forces rescued a woman and her two children when a Molotov cocktail thrown at the police forces missed and went into a ground floor apartment, setting it ablaze.

The woman came out of the apartment in hysterics, and policemen entered the building and were able to rescue the woman’s three-year-old daughter and her months-old baby, all of whom were not injured.

Security forces used a fire-extinguishing vehicle and succeeded in putting out the blaze in the course of a few minutes.

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Stores stayed open in the neighborhood despite the barrage of rocks and rubber bullets, and residents hurried to the convenience store to buy necessities as the exchanges between the youth and soldiers moved further down the street.

“Everything is open. No one is scared, no one is fleeing; we’re just trying to go about our lives,” said a 46-year-old construction worker named Ofik as he left the store with a pack of cigarettes. Like many residents, he said that this year’s violence during Nakba Day was worse than any he could remember.

“It is stronger than normal this year, much stronger because of so many things, the atmosphere is suitable for things like this to happen because of everything that happened in the other Arab countries,” said Amram, 54, who is unemployed.

“We would like to tell Israel, ‘You’re dancing over our wound.’” Near the main street, a spotless private clinic called the Baladna Medical Complex was treating residents suffering from gas inhalation. The clinic, which is associated with Clalit, treated 22 people for gas inhalation, and six for injuries from rubber bullet on Sunday. The majority of the patients came around 5 p.m., after the major stone-throwing had died down, said Dr. M., a general practitioner at the clinic.

“This is different from all the other years. There’s a change in all the Arab countries and we feel it,” said M., the owner of the clinic.

“Milad Ayish [the 17-year-old Ras el-Amud resident who died on Saturday from wounds he sustained while rioting on Friday in Silwan] ignited the anger of the young people. Isawiya is inseparable from Jerusalem, and what happens there affects us,” said M. “What do they want [the youth] to do, throw flowers?” Ben-Ruby told The Jerusalem Post that on days such as Nakba Day or during periods with riots, the most intense violence often moves from neighborhood to neighborhood around the city and is difficult to predict.

Friday and Saturday’s violence was concentrated in Silwan and Ras al-Amud, where police significantly increased their presence on Sunday.


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