IDF soldier handcuffs a man.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the heels of a Sunday report stating that the number of Arab arrests in Jerusalem more than doubled last month, police said the spike is the result of heightened security following a recent terrorist attack and preparations for the influx of nearly 150,000 visitors during Passover and Easter.
According to the report, compiled by Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh Information Center, 185 Palestinians were detained in the capital during March, compared to 77 comparable arrests during February.
The arrests primarily took place in the Arab Quarter of the Old City and the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, E-Tur and Wadi Joz, the report stated.
The Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian- Israeli organization that opposes Israeli settlements and “promotes justice, equality and peace for Palestinians and Israelis,” alleged the crackdown was due to Israeli extremists on the Temple Mount.
“Extremist Israeli groups further escalated their invasions of occupied east Jerusalem’s al-Aksa Mosque compound in March, with over 1,060 Israelis entering the area, accompanied by 73 representatives of the police and intelligence forces,” AIC wrote.
“These invasions coincided with an increase in the number of Palestinians prohibited from entering the al-Aksa Mosque area: Forty-two Palestinians were prohibited from entering the mosque for periods ranging from 15-90 days in March. Twenty-one Palestinians were distanced from the al-Aksa Mosque in the month of February.”
However, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld patently denied AIC’s allegations, noting that the arrests were the direct result of a March 6 terrorist attack outside Jerusalem’s Border Police headquarters, compounded by extensive security preparations for the 130,000 pilgrims who visited the capital during the holidays.
“Israeli police operations continued on a regular basis [during March], taking into consideration the recent terrorist attack, which police stopped, that resulted in a number of wounded Border Police officers,” said Rosenfeld.
The terrorist, from Jerusalem’s Ras al Amud neighborhood, was shot twice after ramming his car into five border policewomen and a male pedestrian, and then brandishing a meat cleaver upon exiting the vehicle to attack more people.
“Heightened security preparations for Passover and Easter, during which tens of thousands of people came into the Old City, was also an important consideration,” Rosenfeld added, noting that the exponential influx of pilgrims to the densely populated area necessitated extensive patrols.
Moreover, Rosenfeld said the number of arrests during any given month can go up or down based on increased or decreased security threats.
“The number of suspects arrested increases or decreases based on ongoing police activities,” he said.