East Jerusalem's Shuafat Refugee Camp a Terrorist Stronghold, Security Sources Say

The Israeli military does not operate in the camp because it is within Jerusalem's municipal limits, although the separation barrier running through the area has cut it off from the city. The police, too, rarely enter the area.

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The aftermath of the Jerusalem car attack, November 5, 2014.
The aftermath of the Jerusalem car attack, November 5, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Gili Cohen

The Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, home of Ibrahim Akari, the perpetrator of an attack that killed one and wounded 13 in the capital on Wednesday, has been the source of many of the terror attacks in recent months in the Jerusalem area, security sources say.

The refugee camp has become a fertile ground for terrorists because of its proximity to the West Bank, even though it is regarded as a neighborhood in Jerusalem, they note. The Israel Defense Forces do not operate there because it is within the Jerusalem city limits, although practically speaking the separation barrier running through the area has cut it off from the city. Conversely, because it is beyond the fence, the police rarely enter.

Ever since the killing in early July of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of the Shuafat neighborhood (which is distinct from the refugee camp), there has been a marked increase in violent incidents in the area. In August, a Border Police undercover unit captured a sniper operating in Shuafat, while in September there were additional incidents of shooting at homes in the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.

“There is a copycat atmosphere,” said a security source. Whenever something happens, he said, “there is a concern that someone will do something similar.”

According to the Shin Bet security service, before July, there was an average of eight violent incidents a month in the city, while in July there were 89 attacks, including four explosive devices and one shooting. In August there were 69 attacks, including a shooting, a run-over attack and an incident involving an explosive device. In September there were 25 attacks.

The Shin Bet does not count stone-throwing incidents unless they cause injury. According to Shin Bet statistics, since 2010 there have been nine vehicular attacks, mostly in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Police said the Jerusalem-bound entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp is monitored at all times. “Border Police fighters operate regularly in the refugee camp, expel illegal residents and arrest lawbreakers,” the police said. “This is in addition to the intelligence and operational activities of the Jerusalem District’s central unit and the undercover work by special units.”

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