Israeli police arrest and beat a Palestinian man after a protest in the Old City against Israel’s Operation Pillar Cloud in the Gaza Strip.
For Palestinians in Jerusalem Fridays are not only a day for prayer and the beginning of the weekend, they also for protests against settlers, land grabs and the occupation. But with a looming ground invasion by Israeli forces, and military aircraft flying overhead during in the middle of Thursday night en route to Gaza, demonstrations this week were focused on Gaza.
Half past noon after prayers ended, a few Hamas flags were carried through the narrow corridors of the Old City from al-Aqsa mosque to the Damascus Gate, as hundreds of Palestinians chanted against Operation Cloud Pillar, and in support of rockets nearly reaching Tel Aviv. The settlers still roamed through the Muslim Quarter, yet instead of instigating clashes, they walked almost unnoticed. In places where the Old City’s paths widened into a bay of a café porches, uniformed Israeli police lined the streets with “Mistravim,” the Hebrew word for undercover security units that dress in an “Arab,” style. These officers are conspicuous. Although dressed in plain clothes they look like they are in costumes, with their build and body movements as a clear giveaway. On Friday, they were armed with cameras, taking pictures of demonstrators, which in the past has resulted in arrests later the same night. But the demonstrators were not concerned with the undercover units because their protest was for the people of Gaza, showing a rare unity amongst Palestinians during an era dominated by political divisions.
Palestinian protesters exiting the Old City through the Damascus Gate.
Israeli checkpoint blocking Palestinian pedestrians at the Damascus Gate, East Jerusalem.
Earlier that same day the Israeli police set-up checkpoints blocking off various access paths around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and barred anyone under the age of 40 from entering the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. From the military’s standpoint the youngsters, the shebab, would likely hurl stones at them. However when the youth finally met up with the older generation at the mouth of the Damascus Gate, a plaza which connects the ancient city to its modern municipal borders, no stones were thrown. Yet still, like choreography, the police in groups of five, darted into the crowed in order to arrest the demonstrating youths. At the top of the stairs overlooking the Palestinians the police spoke freely about how they were going to arrest people they thought were capable of becoming “instigators.” At that time the Palestinians were surrounded on three sides by the Israeli authorities, checkpoints, and journalists. Pointing to a man dressed in a t-shirt, a high-ranking police man said to four others, “him,” continuing “he looks like an instigator.” With that, the police burst into the crowd, pulling back twenty minutes later after six were taken into Israeli custody.
Protesters marching in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, East Jerusalem.
Israeli police line the corridors of the Muslim Quarter.
“Mistravim,” undercover Israeli police officer (right) in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, East Jerusalem.
Protesters marching inside of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, East Jerusalem.
Palestinian women chanting in front of the Damascus Gate.
Israeli police push Palestinan woman while trying to arrest a Palestinian man.
Israeli police snatch squad making an arrest in front of the Damascus Gate.
While making arrests, Israeli police shoved and beat other protesters in order to push them out of the way and extract an arrestable, usually a Palestinian man under the age of 40. There was a kind of flow to this ejection process that left women trampled and men bruised. And journalists are no exception. Some photographers even wear skateboard helmets with their button down shirts in order to protect their heads while working. Michael Corech-Salisbury, a Mizrahi community organizer who works for the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) and contributed research to this report, got swept up in the commotion and was punched in the forehead by Israeli police who then pulled him by the backpack out of their arrest path. The Palestinian man the authorities where detaining at that time was then dragged up the stone steps of the Damascus Gate plaza by four officers.
Israeli police arresting Palestinian man (right).
Israeli police officer moves to strike left wing Mizrahi Israeli activists, Michael Corech-Salisbury who contributed research to this report.
Later the same day in Ras al-Amud, a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem perched on a hill behind the Old City police entered the residential area and fired smoke grenades at youths who threw stones and launched dynamite from a hand-made cardboard device.
After Israeli police fire a smoke grenade, a Palestinian youth prepares to throw stones.
Israeli police in the residential section of Ras al-Amud.
Car window hit by Israeli fire in Ras al-Amud.
But despite the protests, Operation Cloud Pillar is intensifying, aside from a so-called “lull” in air strikes when the Egyptian Hesham Kandil visited on Friday. As well, Hamas and other militia groups in the Gaza Strip are keeping pace with “Operation Shale Stones,” the social media hashtag for their military operation. Each day rockets are launched further into Israel, the latest known range demonstrated by two missile’s fired into the Jerusalem area by al-Qassam Brigades. Now that a much broader swath of Israel’s public is possibly vulnerable to the rockets, and beyond the area protected by Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome system, many people are now speculating that this new possibility of Israeli civilian casualties will force Israel’s hand to let up on military actions in Gaza.
Casings of dispersants fired by Israeli police at youths in Ras al-Amud.
Michael Corech-Salisbury contributed research to this report. All photographs are by the author.