The east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah may again be turning into a flashpoint of tensions between Jews and Arabs in the capital, after a brawl erupted there Tuesday night between Jewish residents of a home in the Shimon Hatzadik section of the neighborhood and the Arab family who was evicted from it nearly three months ago.
Both sides in the fisticuffs are blaming the other over the incident, in which according to police, five people required medical attention, and five others were arrested.
The fight began when a truck filled with items belonging to a Jewish family that was set to move into the former home of the Gawi family, arrived in front of the home around 8 p.m.
Both the Gawi and Hanoun families were evicted from their homes on August 2, after lengthy court battles resulted in rulings favoring the Jewish claimants, who maintained that the properties belonged to them.
Since the evictions, numerous vigils and protests have occurred in the neighborhood, and both families remain across the street from the homes they were evicted from, residing in protest tents, where left-wing activists often join them.
One of those activists told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the fight erupted after the truck arrived, and a Jewish man, presumably associated with the family that was moving into the home, assaulted a five-year old Arab boy, who was standing nearby.
"Then the Jews [from inside the home] started throwing rocks at the tent and the brawl erupted," she said. "The police arrived, but didn't intervene initially, and then arrested a number of Arabs.
"A group of Israeli [left-wing] activists arrived later on and sat with the family in their tent, to make sure nothing else happened," she added. "They stayed there until about midnight."
But MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), who was at the scene of the brawl Tuesday night, gave a different account of the incident.
"As soon as the truck pulled up to the house, it was met with curses and rocks from the protest tent across the street," Ben-Ari told the Post on Wednesday. "Jews from inside the house responded, and that's when the fighting broke out."
Asked about the claim that one of the residents of the home had assaulted the young boy, Ben-Ari responded, "What? That's preposterous. We're always guilty, huh? I think Mr. Goldstone wrote something about this in his report."
Ben-Ari also claimed that police had arrested a number of Jews during the incident, a claim which police could not verify.
Ben-Ari said he opposed the police decision to allow the protest tents to remain in the area since the evictions took place in August.
"Those tents are where the incitement begins for these people to attack the Jews living there. It's simply unsafe, and although I've sent letters in the past, and asked police numerous times to deal with this situation, I am sending a new letter to police commander Aharon Franco, along with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, which explains that these tents are illegal, and to insist that the police dismantle them immediately.
"It's simply the law," he said. "And I want the police to follow it."
A police spokesman would not discuss any plans to dismantle the tents, but said that five arrests had been made during the fight on Tuesday night, and that two detainees had been released. The other three, the spokesman said, were being held for additional questioning.
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