‘Forget about a third intifada... this is war’

Riot police out in full force to counter hot spots throughout east Jerusalem.

March 16, 2010 23:18
3 minute read.
Palestinian stone throwers, some of them carrying

issawiya hamas flag arab riot 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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“All of Jerusalem is on fire today,” said M. on Tuesday, as he gazed out over the golden Dome of the Rock from a traffic circle atop the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

Smoke was rising from trash bins that had been set alight inside the neighborhood’s narrow alleyways and a police helicopter that had been circling the area all morning buzzed overhead. Then came the boom of a stun grenade and a rush of police officers decked out in full riot gear.

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“Forget a third intifada,” M. said. “This is war.”

It was just after one o’clock in the afternoon, and the rioting that had exploded throughout the eastern neighborhoods of the capital had begun to pull at M., a Palestinian resident of the Old City who accompanied The Jerusalem Post to various east Jerusalem neighborhoods on Tuesday and who confessed that he enjoyed watching the action as a form of “good sport.”

But after being nearly trampled by mounted police in Wadi Joz, questioned about his allegiances by a group of young “shababs” – the colloquial name for Palestinian rioters – and growing suspicious of an American reporter who spoke fluent Hebrew, M.’s mood had begun to change from excited to something notably more melancholy.

“My wife is worried about me,” M. said. “Maybe we should get out of here.”

But then the police helicopter veered sharply northwards, and the 32-year-old, who artfully dodged questions about his line of work, changed his mind, and said he wanted to see what else was going on.

Back in Wadi Joz, M. took the lead, directing the way through the chaos that is a full-blown east Jerusalem riot.

A handful of police officers trotted through on horseback, like a cavalry unit, as others, their faces covered with black masks, escorted dogs behind them.

“Be careful here,” M. would say. “The police are going to double back and the rock-throwing will begin again.” And he was often right.

Situations that one minute seemed calm, would change in an instant. The sudden appearance of police would draw hails of large stones flung in their direction, while the arrival of a young mob of rioters would in turn draw stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

For their part, the rioters in Wadi Joz were a tangled grouping of teenagers and religious Muslim men, who, when assembled en masse, began to chant “Allah Hu Akbar!” as the stones and stun grenades flew through the air.

“Here, get a picture of this,” M. said, pointing to a burning trash bin. “This will look good in your newspaper report.”

Moving back out of Wadi Joz, a road leading up to the Mount of Olives was strewn with large stones and black marks from fires that had burned out. Cars, attempting to navigate through the rubble, would inevitably hit a large rock, either sending stones flying into the air or causing the vehicle to buck slightly against the obstacle.

“It’s calming now,” M. said, looking back towards the nieghborhood. “But it will start again.”

Nonetheless, the decision was made to head back to the Old City, where M. would finally head back home. The entire area had been canvased with police and border patrolmen, and the odd rock, even on HaOfel Road, which runs alongside the eastern wall of the Old City, could be seen laying in the street.

“I hope things calm down,” M. said as he headed into the Damascus Gate. “But I’m not so sure they will.”

As he walked away, the buzz of the helicopter remained above and the echo of stun grenades could be heard booming sporadically in the distance. Nearby shops were shuttered and police officers made up the bulk of those on the street, as Tuesday’s rioting – by far the most widespread in months, if not since the second intifada – continued to ebb and flow across the capital’s eastern half.

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