JERUSALEM (Jun. 26)
Civil strife is worsening in Jerusalem, where police are desperately trying to prevent further clashes between Arab and Jewish residents, so far with limited success.
An already tense situation was aggravated further Tuesday morning, when a bomb exploded at a bus stop in the Baka neighborhood, slightly injuring two pedestrians. Police detained 30 Arabs for questioning.
Two days earlier, an explosive device was found on top of a canister of cooking gas in a house five minutes’ walk from local police headquarters on Shivtei Yisrael Street. It was safely dismantled by police sappers.
Earlier on Sunday, a gasoline bomb was hurled at a Jewish house in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood. No one was hurt.
The worst of the unrest to hit the city in recent days occurred in Neveh Ya’acov and nearby Dahiyat el-Barid. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, Arabs from that neighborhood hurled rocks at Jewish vehicles and homes, causing property damage.
Jews from Neveh Ya’acov mounted retaliatory attacks on the Arab neighborhood both nights. On Monday night, heavily reinforced police patrolled Neveh Ya’acov to forestall a repetition of the violence.
The police fired tear gas to discourage both sides.
Before long, the Jewish residents were as angry at the police as they were at the Arabs. They dismissed assurances by Jerusalem Police Chief Arye Bibi that the situation was under control.
VOLUNTEER PATROLS URGED
The current spate of unrest began last week in three Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem that previously had been quiet. They were put under curfew from last Friday to Sunday.
Ya’acov Terner, inspector-general of the national police, attributed the escalation to the U.S. suspension of its 18-month-old dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a move long urged by Israel.
Repercussions were felt in the West Bank, where a violent clash between Israel Defense Force troops and residents of a refugee camp in Tulkarm resulted in the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old mother of 10 children, Hiam Masoud Rashed, whose youngest child is 3 months old.
So far, the Arabs have suffered the most casualties in Jerusalem as well. Four have been killed in clashes with police there during the last three months. Two of the fatalities occurred in the Silwan neighborhood this past week.
It may be significant that no Arab was killed by police fire when the Jerusalem police was commanded by the late Yosef Yehudai, who died a year ago.
Police policy in general has been to take softer measures against Arab residents of Jerusalem than the IDF uses against intifada activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
One reason is to stress the difference of status between Jerusalem, which is the capital and an integral part of the nation, and the administered territories.
But Jewish residents are impatient. They expect the police to prevent all manifestations of the intifada in the city.
Terner has urged Neveh Ya’acov residents to volunteer for the Civil Guard, patrols of armed citizens that operate under police supervision. To date, the turnout has been poor.
LEVY MEETS WITH BETHLEHEM MAYOR
Police Minister Ronni Milo promised Monday that the police would set up a special unit in Jerusalem, to be known as the Gideonites, after the biblical warriors. He said it would use “unconventional methods” to combat the intifada.
Meanwhile, Likud leaders are speaking of the need to “renew the dialogue with the moderate leadership in the territories.”
Defense Minister Moshe Arens on Tuesday visited Elias Freij, the veteran mayor of Bethlehem, to discuss the situation in the territories. It was the first time Arens had been to Bethlehem since his previous stint as defense minister six years ago.
He and Freij discussed means to grapple with the intifada, but there was no indication that their talk yielded anything of substance.
Freij is regarded as one of the more moderate Palestinian leaders. Still, he has often gone on record identifying the PLO as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”