Text size

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said on Friday he had not been backed by the government during the ongoing unrest in the city in the wake of the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox mother on suspicion of starving her 3-year-old son.

Barkat told Channel 2 News that "not only Rabbis should condemn the riots. Government ministers and public figures should speak out, and provide the artillery and air force required to restore public order."

Barkat praised police for the effective clampdown on the riots and said that they were not treating rioters with kid gloves.

"The police successfully isolated the area where violence was rampant, arrested the perpetrators but at the same time allowed peaceful demonstrations," he said. "That was the way to do it."

The mayor also defended his decision to halt welfare services in the city's ultra-Orthodox districts after concerns were raised about the safety of the workers.

"I am committed to their safety," he said. "Today, when we were convinced some areas are quite, we sent in sanitary workers. We have no intention to impose collective punishments; when quiet is restored we will carry out our duties."

Earlier on Friday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered the suspect be released to house arrest, despite contrary recommendations by the Police, the Prosecuter's Office and social services.

The woman will spend her house arrest at the home of Rabbi Froelich.

The decision came after Magistrate's Court Presidnet Shlomit Dotan decided to try and negotiate between the woman's counselors and those representing the Prosecutor's Office and social services, in order to facilitate the woman's release to house arrest in the wake of violent riots perpetrated by the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem.

Also Friday, Jerusalem police were bracing more violence after a third straight night of street battles with ultra-Orthodox Jews over the arrest of the Haredi woman.

Violence erupted again in Jerusalem on Thursday night as over 1,000 ultra-Orthodox rioters clashed with hundreds of police officers at key intersections throughout the city, following a rally in Sabbath Square protesting the arrest of a woman from the community for alleged child abuse.

At least 18 police officers were hurt over the course of the evening riots, nine of them hospitalized in various conditions. Six demonstrators were also wounded.

Dozens of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) protesters were arrested or detained as they blocked Route 1, a key Jerusalem artery. Approximately 34 protesters were in custody on Friday morning, said police. Police used water cannons to disperse the crowds and reopen the road.

The riots, the city's worst in recent years, were sparked earlier this week by the arrest of a Haredi woman whom The boy, who weighs about seven kilograms, is hospitalized in serious condition.


View Riots in Jerusalem in a larger map

Jerusalem District Police Commander Aharon Franco blasted the ultra-Orthodox leadership on Thursday for failing to speak out against the violent riots.

"There is not one sane voice within the Haredi community that will rise up and cry out against this phenomenon," Franco said. "They have rabbis, they have a leadership, but I haven't heard any of them speak out."

The violence escalated earlier Thursday after the prayer rally in Shabbat Square, as protesters threw rocks and resumed rioting throughout the city.

As of late Thursday night, they had set fire to hundreds of garbage bins and vandalized about 70 traffic lights, as well as traffic cameras and two municipal vehicles, causing an estimated NIS 550,000 worth of damage.

Municipal workers, mostly sanitation workers, were attacked with rocks and beaten by ultra-Orthodox rioters. Nine were lightly injured.

On Thursday morning morning, rioters attacked a welfare bureau on the outskirts of a Haredi neighborhood and smashed its windows. The besieged workers had to be evacuated under police protection and the office closed down.

On Wednesday, the city froze all municipal services to the two Haredi neighborhoods where the rioting was centered, pending an end to the riots.

"We haven't seen such things since the first intifada in Tul Karm," municipality director general Yair Ma'ayan said.

Franco warned of the dangers caused by the rioters. "They tore down traffic lights, and without traffic lights, fatal traffic accidents can happen," he said. "They dismantled mechanisms in electricity pylons, and people could be electrocuted. Where in the Bible does it say these things are permissible?"

The Jerusalem police will ask the court on Friday to extend the remand of the woman suspected of starving her son - unless she agrees to a psychiatric evaluation. If she does, Franco said, she could be released today.

"We could have released the woman a week ago if her attorney had agreed to a psychiatric evaluation," he said. "We could release her tomorrow if her family agrees to it [the evaluation]."

Earlier Thursday,, ultra-Orthodox protesters hurled rocks at ministries and at police officers patrolling the government compound. Witnesses reported police forces blocking several dozen protesters from reaching Jaffa Street, another key artery.

"At this stage, we still have not succeeded in seeing the family's other children," said Eli Cohen, the chief investigator in the case. "We tried on several occasions to meet the other children, but their father is not cooperating with the police."