Israeli police and their militaristic reaction to protests by Palestinian citizens in various Arab neighbourhoods may be the reason behind the quick escalation of violence during peaceful demonstrations, according to a representative of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, an NGO based in Jerusalem.
The representative, who wished to remain anonymous, says while tensions are constantly high between Israeli and Palestinian residents, the recent violence in East Jerusalem came about as a result of the fifty day long war in Gaza.
At the weekend, riots flared up in East Jerusalem as residents of Abu Tor and A-Tur neighbourhoods heard news of the death of Mohammed Sunokrot following a head injury he allegedly sustained during a protest-turned-violent last week during an altercation with police.
Israeli police have denied his head injury was sustained by the firing of a rubber bullet to his head. Instead they claim he was hit by a foam projectile in the leg and slipped in the ordeal.
“Whenever something takes place, for instance the recent war in Gaza, you will find many protests and demonstrations start up. But the initial response by the police is what turns it violent, because that is how they approach it, in turn the people react in the same manner,” she said.
The EAPPI accompanies international persons to the occupied territories to experience life under occupation. It also observes and reports on instances of conflict between Israeli and Palestinian citizens.
“We haven’t been keeping track of these protests and riots but this is a common occurrence, and it is not only following the recent fighting in Gaza; Israeli police react in a violent manner in the first place. And this happens in a lot of Arab communities across the country,” the EAPPI representative said.
The riot comes less than two weeks after a ceasefire agreement was made between Israel and Hamas to end a fifty day long war in the small coastal enclave that claimed the lives of nearly 2200 people, mostly Palestinian citizens.
According to media reports, the protests have flared up nightly and have led to a crackdown by Israeli police in which hundreds of Palestinians have been detained.
The street clashes escalated in July after the murder of a Palestinian teen in an alleged revenge attack by three Jews, who are standing trial. That followed the killing of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank by Palestinians, claimed to be Hamas operatives. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has denied the organisation’s involvement. He said the two men were not acting on orders by Hamas. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)