Ramadan riots: Police detain PA ‘governor’ of Jerusalem

Clashes at Damascus Gate have continued for three days straight since Ramadan began.

 Israeli police officers arrest a man during clashes with protesters at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, April 4, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli police officers arrest a man during clashes with protesters at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, April 4, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Palestinian Authority “governor” of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, was detained on Tuesday morning by the police, as clashes continued for the third straight day near the Old City’s Damascus Gate.

Gheith, a resident of the village of Silwan who holds an Israeli-issued ID card, was released hours later after being served with a decision to extend an IDF order banning him from entering the West Bank.

The order means that Gheith can’t arrive at the offices of the PA’s Jerusalem Governorate in the town of Al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, which is located outside the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality. It also means that he can’t participate in meetings with PA officials in Ramallah or in other Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Governorate is divided into two sub-districts: Jerusalem 1, which includes areas under Israeli sovereignty, and Jerusalem 2, which includes 29 villages and towns surrounding Jerusalem, but located in the West Bank.

Like all Palestinian governors, Gheith was appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2018. The governors are regarded as the PA president’s personal representatives.

 Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks during a meeting with journalists in the West Bank cityof Ramallah on July 03, 2019. (credit: FLASH90) Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks during a meeting with journalists in the West Bank cityof Ramallah on July 03, 2019. (credit: FLASH90)

Since his appointment, Gheith has been detained at least 28 times and served with orders barring him from participating in any meetings or activities in the city.

A law approved by the Knesset in 1994 bans the PA from carrying out various activities in Israel, including in Jerusalem.

Shortly after his release, Gheith was quoted as saying that his arrest came “in the context of the occupation’s crimes against our people.”

He said that despite the detention and the restrictions imposed on him and other residents of east Jerusalem, “We will remain on our land, embodying our sovereignty [in Jerusalem].”

Gheith, who also holds a senior position in the ruling Fatah faction headed by Abbas, was detained hours after dozens of Palestinians again clashed with police officers outside Damascus Gate on Monday night.

The disturbances began on Saturday night, the first day of the month of Ramadan. During the riots, Palestinians attacked officers with rocks, empty bottles, iron bars and fireworks.

As part of the crackdown on PA activities in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have decided to extend the closure of 28 Palestinian institutions that used to operate in the city, said Ahmed Ruwaidi, the Jerusalem affairs adviser in the PA president’s office.

Ruwaidi said the Israeli decision was in violation of a promise made by former foreign minister Shimon Peres to his Norwegian counterpart Johan Holst to allow Palestinian institutions to operate in Jerusalem.

Ruwaidi described the decision to extend the closure of the institutions, including Orient House, the unofficial headquarters of the PLO in Jerusalem that was shut in 2001, as “a new attempt to impose Israeli sovereignty on Jerusalem.”

He added, “This closure constitutes a violation of international law, which considers Jerusalem an occupied city. We are convinced that Israel, the occupying power, wants to displace us from our land and prevent our economic, youth, community and cultural institutions from serving the residents of Jerusalem.”

The PA, meanwhile on Tuesday, again held Israel responsible for the violence that erupted in Jerusalem over the past three days.

A statement published by the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “the operations of repression, intimidation and abuse practiced by the occupation forces in a provocative manner against Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

The ministry claimed that the Israeli security measures are “an integral part of the Israelization and Judaization of Jerusalem.” It also accused Israel of working toward “changing the Palestinian and Arab features of Damascus Gate.

The harsh criticism of Israel stands in sharp contrast to reports suggesting that the PA leadership has pledged to work toward easing tensions and preventing a flare-up of violence in the city during Ramadan.