Youth soccer club, Silwan - Emil Salman
The youth soccer club in Silwan closed by police on suspicion of being a Hamas operation. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

Security forces yesterday raided a soccer club in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, shutting it down on suspicion that it served as a cover for Hamas activity. The raid was part of a comprehensive plan by security forces to undermine Hamas' ongoing efforts to infiltrate East Jerusalem.

Security forces also temporarily shut down a large charity organization yesterday that had been operating in Silwan for many years.

"The institutions we have shut down are not involved in Hamas military activity," said a high-ranking police source. "They are involved more in the recruitment of people and the channeling of funds."

The temporary closure of the soccer club, due to last for a month, was carried out by police and the Shin Bet security service. An order posted at the entrance notes that the closure follows suspicions that the club has served as cover for Hamas activity in East Jerusalem over the past few months.

Yesterday's raid caught Silwan resident Ahmed Siam unprepared. "This place has existed for many years," said Siam. "Ever since I was a child, we would play here in teams. Now it's closed the children of the village have nowhere else to play apart from the streets."

But police sources say that residents of Silwan were well aware of Hamas' links to the club.

"It's a win-win situation," said a high-ranking Jerusalem District police officer yesterday. "The public receives social services from Hamas and, in return, Hamas gets the support of the public.

"Although the residents of East Jerusalem cannot vote for Hamas, the benefit here is for the future - the accumulation of wealth and political power, for example, the recruitment of people to the Hamas movement at a later stage. The people there will also be able to travel to the territories in the future and join the Hamas movement there."

Yesterday's raid on the soccer club was not an isolated incident, but part of a plan by security forces to undermine Hamas' infiltration attempts.

Over the past year, security forces have conducted raids on some 12 institutions in East Jerusalem that were suspected of similar offenses. A kindergarten and a charity organization have been among the sites raided and shut down over the past year.

In all cases, the process has been the same. Security forces show up, weld shut the entrance, post a closure order and give those affected 30 days to appeal against the move. In all cases so far, appeals have come to naught and the institutions have remained closed.

From East Jerusalem residents' point of view, every such closure deals a harsh blow to the community.

"The ones being hurt are the needy," said Khaled, a resident of the area. "I don't need the money, but those who do receive [money] from [such institutions] will now have problems."