Israel arrests Jerusalem activists in disputed neighborhood
Israeli police broke into the home of an important family in Jerusalem’s disputed Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Sunday, the family said, arresting 23-year-old Muna al-Kurd, who led protests against attempts by Jewish settlers to ‘evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the area.
The young woman was later released, but her twin brother surrendered and remained in custody.
The arrests came a day after Israeli police arrested a well-known Al Jazeera reporter covering a protest in the neighborhood.
Journalist Givara Budeiri was detained for four hours before being released and sent to hospital to treat a broken hand. It was not known how her hand was broken, but her boss blamed the mistreatment by the police.
Earlier this year, heavy-handed police actions in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of East Jerusalem fueled weeks of unrest that helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. .
Those tensions are simmering again this week – and could explode again if Israeli ultra-nationalists follow through on plans to march through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday. Israeli police were to hold consultations on whether the parade, which was originally scheduled to take place when war broke out on May 10, would be allowed to proceed.
The resumption of violence could make it difficult for opponents of besieged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed a fragile and disparate coalition last week, to pass a parliamentary confidence vote needed to replace him and take office. A close ally of Netanyahu oversees the police.
In Sheikh Jarrah, Jewish settlers waged a decades-long campaign to evict families from densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods just outside the walls of the Old City. The area is one of the most sensitive parts of East Jerusalem, home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims that Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move unrecognized internationally. Israel sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Settler groups and Israeli officials say the Sheikh Jarrah dispute is only about real estate. But the Palestinians say they are victims of a discriminatory system. The settlers use a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim once Jewish property lost during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict.
Sheikh Jarrah’s al-Kurd family has been at the forefront of months of protests against the planned evictions.
Early Sunday, police took Muna al-Kurd, 23, to her home.
His father, Nabil al-Kurd, said the police “stormed the house in large numbers and in a barbaric manner.”
“I was sleeping and found them in my room,” he said. The police then searched the house and arrested her daughter. A video posted on social media showed that she was taken in handcuffs.
“The reason for the arrest is that we are saying that we will not leave our homes, and they don’t want anyone to voice their opinion, they don’t want anyone to tell the truth,” he said. “They want to silence us.
Police also searched for his brother, Muhammad al-Kurd, but he was not there. He later surrendered to the Jerusalem police.
The siblings’ lawyer, Nasser Odeh, told reporters outside the police station that his clients were accused of “disturbing public security and participating in nationalist riots.”
Late Sunday, Muna al-Kurd was released. But before she was released, police briefly confronted a crowd outside the station, throwing stun grenades. Her brother remained in detention.
The arrests came a day after Al Jazeera’s Budeiri, wearing a protective vest with the inscription “press”, was taken away by police during a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah.
According to witnesses, the police asked Budeiri to identify himself. Colleagues said police did not allow him to return to his car to collect his government-issued press card. Instead, they said she was surrounded by police, handcuffed, and dragged into a dark-windowed vehicle.
In video footage posted online, Budeiri can be seen handcuffed, while clutching her notebook and shouting, “Don’t touch, enough, enough.”
Israeli police said entry into the neighborhood was limited due to the tense situation and only accredited journalists were allowed to enter. They said that when Budeiri was unable to provide her press pass, the police “took her away”. They added that Budeiri was arrested after turning hostile and pushing an officer.
“The Israel Police will allow freedom of press coverage, provided it is done in accordance with () the law while maintaining public order,” according to a statement. The release does not refer to his broken hand.
Budeiri was held for four hours before being released and sent to hospital, said Walid Omary, head of Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau. In addition to the broken hand, Omary said Budeiri also had bruises on his body. He said his cameraman’s video camera was also badly damaged by police.
As part of his release, Budeiri is prohibited from returning to the neighborhood for 15 days, Omary said.
“They attack journalists in East Jerusalem because they don’t want them to continue covering what’s going on inside Sheikh Jarrah,” he said.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organizations, said Budeiri’s treatment was “the latest in a long line of brutal Israeli police tactics” against the media. last few weeks. He said journalists were hit by stun grenades, tear gas, sponge bullets and stinking water.
“We call on the police to punish the officers who needlessly injured an experienced journalist and broke professional equipment. And once again, we urge the police to abide by Israel’s commitments to respect press freedom and allow journalists to do their work freely and without fear of injury and intimidation, ”the FPA said.
Last month’s war was sparked by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy flashpoint.
War broke out on May 10 when Hamas, calling itself the defender of the holy city, launched a barrage of rockets on Jerusalem. Some 254 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel before a ceasefire went into effect on May 21.
Al Jazeera acting director general Mostefa Souag noted that Budeiri’s detention came after Israel destroyed on May 15 a skyscraper in Gaza that housed Al Jazeera’s local office. The tower also housed the office of the Associated Press.
Israel alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating from the building. The PA said it had no indication of an alleged Hamas presence and called for an independent investigation.