JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police fired live rounds, tear gas and stun grenades in widespread Jerusalem street confrontations with Palestinians who threw stones, firecrackers and firebombs. It was the fiercest unrest in the contested city in months.
Tensions in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem have been soaring since a suspected Palestinian assailant shot and killed an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint at the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp earlier this week. Movement in and out of Shuafat, a neglected Jerusalem slum, has been restricted as troops search for the shooter.
The overnight street violence appeared to have subsided by Thursday morning, as tens of thousands of Jews were flocking to Jerusalem to celebrate the week-long Sukkot holiday, surging into east Jerusalem’s Old City, often a focal point for tensions.
The confrontations between Israeli troops and Palestinians erupted in more than a dozen neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and areas surrounding it.
Police said they arrested 23 Palestinians throughout disturbances on Wednesday, half of them minors. Police said masked protesters threw firebombs, stones and fireworks at officers. Video footage released by Israeli police showed a street littered with burning debris and trash bins set alight.
Police said in some cases officers used live fire against the protesters. There was no immediate report of injuries.
The police manhunt has further disrupted the lives of residents of Shuafat, an area that has long seen neglect at the hands of Israeli authorities. Police initially closed Shuafat’s entry and exit points and while they have since reopened, officers are stopping every car moving in and out of the city, triggering snarling traffic jams and disrupting the residents’ daily routine.
In response, shops, businesses and schools across east Jerusalem closed Wednesday in protest of the police measures and in solidarity with Shuafat.
The uptick in violence in the flashpoint city comes amid soaring tensions in the West Bank, where the Israeli military has been carrying out nightly raids since the spring in what it says is an attempt to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed, making this year the deadliest since 2015. Israel says most of those killed were militants, but local youth protesting the incursions and other civilians have also been killed.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and later annexed that part of the city. It considers the entire city its eternal, undivided capital. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state, with Jerusalem’s eastern flank as capital.