US calls for calm in Jerusalem after weekend rioting

The rioting ensued despite the deployment of 800 additional police officers in an attempt to avert violence.

September 20, 2015 02:22
3 minute read.
BORDER POLICEMEN fire tear gas at rock-throwers in the Shuafat refugee camp

BORDER POLICEMEN fire tear gas at rock-throwers in the Shuafat refugee camp in northeastern Jerusalem on Friday. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The US called for calm in Jerusalem on Saturday, after riots broke out in five Arab neighborhoods during a “day of rage” on Friday, in which three police officers were wounded and 12 Palestinians were arrested.

The rioting ensued despite the deployment of 800 additional police officers in an attempt to avert violence.

“All of us join together in urging everybody to keep the calm, to keep the peace,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in London as he met with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday is to discuss ways to quell the violence in the capital, including permitting police to use live ammunition in riot situations where civilian lives are at risk.

The “day of rage” followed several days of rioting on the Temple Mount last week, after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banned the Islamist extremist groups Murabitun and Murabatat from the compound for their constant intimidation of and violence against Jewish visitors.

While police said restrictions barring Muslim males under 40 from ascending the Temple Mount thwarted planned violence on the compound, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Saturday that masked youths rioted in five Arab neighborhoods.

On Friday at approximately 4 p.m., Border Police patrolling the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber were attacked by assailants who threw firebombs, iron pipes, and rocks at their vehicles after setting dumpsters on fire and blocking roadways, he said.

Three officers sustained light-to-moderate burns when one of the cruisers was set alight, Rosenfeld said.

“It was a pretty serious incident,” he said. “They were attacked at close range by masked Palestinians with firebombs, and as a result were badly burned.”

The three officers were treated by Magen David Adom paramedics and transferred to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, where they remained as of Saturday night, Rosenfeld said.

Two of the suspects in the ambush were arrested at the scene, while five others were apprehended following an intensive search inside the volatile neighborhood, he said.

Later on Friday afternoon, police were attacked again by a mob of masked youths in the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat, Isawiya and Wadi Joz, resulting in four more arrests, although no officers were wounded, Rosenfeld said.

On Saturday police apprehended a 17-year-old who had evaded arrested after he threw rocks and firebombs at police the day before in Wadi Joz.

Police said the teen was arrested by Border Police officers who set an ambush for him in the neighborhood.

On Thursday night, an Arab Egged bus driver was forced to flee the empty vehicle in Ras al-Amud after a group of masked Arab assailants pummeled it with rocks and firebombs, setting it on fire.

No arrests were made after firefighters put out the blaze and police units canvassed the neighborhood, Rosenfeld said.

He could not confirm multiple reports of nearly two dozen Arab injuries between Friday and Saturday.

“Police are carrying out security assessments on a daily basis, and are mobilizing units in different Arab neighborhoods in and around the Old City,” he said.

In the meantime, Rosenfeld said that age restrictions on the Temple Mount will be lifted as of Sunday morning.

On Thursday, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein authorized the deployment of snipers using rifles that fire low impact .22 caliber bullets against rioters.

Netanyahu’s meeting on Jerusalem security is expected to discuss the use of live ammunition against rock-throwers and firebombers. They are also to weigh imposing fines on parents of stone-throwers.

In London, Kerry said that President Barack Obama had spoken about the situation in Jerusalem and in particular the violence on the Temple Mount with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

“Vice President Biden talked with King Abdullah of Jordan, and I talked directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel,” Kerry said. It is important, Kerry said, to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Kerry said Netanyahu “made it very clear that he is completely supportive of the status quo and deeply committed to preventing any kind of incident that will incite.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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