Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion inaugurated a new playground in the Arab neighborhood of Isawiya in east Jerusalem on Thursday, as tensions remain high amid a large number of arrests and violence between police and youth in the neighborhood.
"As mayor of Jerusalem, I have a deep obligation for the cultivation of Isawiya for the welfare of its residents," said Lion. "I will continue to grant municipal services that the residents of Isawiya have the right to, in the best and most appropriate way."
The new park is located at the entrance to the neighborhood. Students at the middle school in the neighborhood and representatives of the neighborhood took part in the inauguration of the Al-Haruba (The Carob) park. The park includes a playground and workout equipment, as well as areas to sit and relax.
The design and location of the park was done in full coordination with the residents of Isawiya. Lion is promoting a series of initiatives for the neighborhood including an industrial zone and a bypass road.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reported that over 600 residents of Isawiya have been arrested since regular police raids began in the neighborhood, according to Haaretz. About a third of the arrests were minors.
“We are aware, of course, of the exceptions the law allows for the broad protections it provides for minors, but they are supposed to be implemented only in rare and exceptional cases. In Isawiyah, as the examples above and reality shows – day after day, night after night – the exception has become the rule,” wrote ACRI lawyer Tal Hassin, in a letter to the police’s legal adviser, Ayelet Elisher.
A video taken on Wednesday night showed Israeli security forces arresting a Palestinian youth in Isawiya, according to Palestinian media.
Six residents of the Isawiya neighborhood in east Jerusalem were placed under nighttime curfew for several months in a rare move invoking a British Mandate-era regulation at the beginning of the month, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
The IDF stated that the decision to place people under a curfew is "made when defense officials have information pointing to a public security risk. This information...is based on classified intelligence, which can't be released."
Israel Police said that it began the arrests in the past few months "to provide a response to the hundreds of violent incidents and riots against civilians and security forces." The police reported a "dramatic increase" in the number of violent disturbances in Isawiya, with "clearly nationalist activities of violent and inflammatory nature."
European Union (EU) Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah went on a fact-finding mission in Isawiya on Monday, according to WAFA. The EU officials heard from residents and representatives of the civil society organizations about the clashes between residents and police since May 2019.
"Interlocutors expressed that the raids have resulted in several severe incidents of police brutality and excessive force, including assaults on residents and use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades and night raids as well as arrests. They estimated that some 700 people have been arrested (with up to about 30 indictments filed)," said the EU officials in a press release.
"The European Union is concerned about the worrying developments and violence in Issawiya. Responsible actors on the ground should show calm and restraint in order to prevent any escalation," said the Acting European Union Representative Tomas Niklasson. "Israel has an obligation to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of the child, by ensuring that schools are inviolable safe spaces for children."
Isawiya, located adjacent to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus and Hadassah-University Medical Center, is home to an estimated 22,000 Palestinians. According to residents and activists, police have entered the neighborhood nearly every night since June 12. According to WAFA, there has been a “dramatic uptick in police raids that have completely disrupted their lives and thrown the neighborhood into chaos.”
Authorities originally increased their presence in Isawiya because of residents throwing stones, according to an October 6 report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Abby Seitz contributed to this report.