Tensions simmer in Jerusalem over weekend

Police stop Muslim worshipers from throwing rocks at the Western Wall; ACRI claims baby killed by tear gas.

September 26, 2010 01:24
2 minute read.
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Jerusalem 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Despite a heightened state of alert in anticipation of riots by Muslim residents of east Jerusalem following afternoon prayers on Friday, cool heads generally prevailed over the weekend.

In the most serious incident, police entered the Temple Mount compound on Friday to stop worshipers from throwing rocks down at the Western Wall Plaza.

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One man was arrested on Saturday night after Arabs threw rocks at police officers in the Abu Tur neighborhood.

Two rock-throwing incidents were recorded in Silwan and Isawiya on Friday evening, but security forces were able to disperse the groups without violence.

Border police arrested 16 east Jerusalem residents – nine in Silwan and seven in A-Tur – for disturbing the peace on Thursday night, a day after Arab residents vowed to avenge the death of a man killed by a Jewish security guard in the Silwan neighborhood.

A one-year-old boy was apparently an indirect victim of the weekend’s clashes; his parents claimed that the copious amounts of tear gas used in Isawiya killed the baby, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. Mahmoud Abu Sa’ara suffered from severe asthma and his parents had taken him to a local clinic on Wednesday afternoon, where the doctor told them to continue using his inhalator every time he had trouble breathing, ACRI said. When his mother went to check on him at 5 a.m. on Thursday, she found him unconscious.

The baby was brought to Hadassah University Hospital on Mount Scopus, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

ACRI is demanding that the police open an investigation into the boy’s death.

“They should reexamine the procedures,” said Ronit Sela, ACRI spokeswoman. “We’re not saying don’t use tear gas. But we received testimonies during the day that this tear gas was much harsher this time, that it could have been a different type of tear gas. It’s not a different type of tear gas, but the police are using a lot of it. And when it’s not carried away by the wind, it hangs around.”

Tear gas entered into many of the houses in the Isawiya neighborhood in greater quantities than usual, according to testimony gathered by ACRI field workers during the weekend.

The police denied knowledge of Abu Sa’ara’s death, and defended their use of tear gas during the riots in Isawiya and other neighborhoods.

“The amount of force we use depends on the level of unruliness of the crowd and how much it takes to calm them down. We don’t immediately use gas,” said Ch.-Supt. Shmulik Ben-Ruby, the spokesman for the Jerusalem police district.

“If they were standing and shouting, we wouldn’t be using gas. But if there are a few hundred that are trying to go up to the French Hill neighborhood, then we’re going to use force. And that’s what’s happened in the past few days,” he said.

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