Police brace for rioting in Jerusalem

Planned protest march by Right in Silwan is postponed until late April.

Police Old City riots 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Police Old City riots 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
While a tense calm has prevailed in the capital since rioting rocked its eastern neighborhoods Tuesday, Jerusalem Police on Thursday announced that the deployment of more than 3,000 police officers throughout the Old City and east Jerusalem would continue Friday, and access to the Temple Mount would be restricted, amid fears that prayers there could give way to renewed clashes.
The heightened police presence has been in effect since last Friday, when tensions in the area began to build and sporadic clashes erupted inside the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.
Since then, the thousands of police and Border Police officers, special forces and undercover agents have been working overtime, especially on Tuesday, when rioting in the Old City and east Jerusalem erupted on levels unseen in months, if not years.
Additionally, a planned protest march in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, that was to be led by right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, has been postponed until late April due to the current atmosphere, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
He said this decision was made because of the ongoing tensions in the capital, but also out of a desire to hold the march after the busy Pessah and Easter holidays.
Regarding this week’s clashes and the potential for further violence, Rosenfeld said that the “official estimate is that these were local incidents, mainly carried out by young men, and not the sign of anything bigger.”
That said, Rosenfeld added that security forces would continue to be vigilant in their efforts to quell additional unrest.
“The police are ready to respond to any disturbances,” he said.
Rosenfeld also recapped the week’s events, stressing that while Tuesday had been the “height” of police presence and response, security forces were working around the clock to prevent further disturbances.
“The worst rioting on Tuesday was seen in Isawiya, where some 200 people, mainly Palestinian teenagers with their faces covered, threw rocks, bottles, iron bars and even axes at security forces,” Rosenfeld said.
While other rioting ebbed and flowed throughout the day, Rosenfeld said that the clashes in Isawiya had “gone on continuously for hours.”
Nonetheless, Rosenfeld added that there had been few serious injuries among the rioters and no fatalities.
“Police went to great efforts not only to protect their fellow officers but to act with restraint against the rioters,” Rosenfeld said.
Intelligence officials have also stated that had Tuesday’s disturbances resulted in the death of a rioter, the clashes would have likely gone on.
“We didn’t want to reach that point,” Rosenfeld said. “To stop the rioting, we used tear gas and stun grenades, non-lethal means.”
All in all, Rosenfeld said that 75 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs had been arrested on Tuesday, “all of whom,” he said “were directly involved in the disturbances.
“15 police officers were wounded as well, and a Reuters cameraman was also injured when he was struck by a rock while filming in Isawiya,” he said.
While most of Tuesday’s violence consisted of rock-throwing, Rosenfeld said that the the most serious incident had been a shooting incident in Ras al-Amud Tuesday night, in which a Yassam policeman was wounded in the hand.
While that incident was extremely serious, Rosenfeld said, it could have been much worse.
But overall, Rosenfeld said the feeling among police was that they had done their job well and were cautiously optimistic about tensions calming in the coming days and weeks.
“With regards to this week,” Rosenfeld said, “it was a matter of putting the right units in the right places, and knowing when to do so. The feeling now is yes, one of cautious optimism, but our forces are ready to act immediately and will deal with any further disturbances accordingly.”