Tense Quiet in Jerusalem and Israel's North After Friday Rioting

Main roads closed in area of Tira, Taibeh and Kalanswa; Jewish citizens prevented from entering towns.

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An Israeli policeman stands guard on the top of a building in front of the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem. July 4, 2014.
An Israeli policeman stands guard on the top of a building in front of the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem. July 4, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Arab-Israeli towns in the center and north of the country were quiet but tense on Saturday morning, following serious rioting in several towns on Friday night.

The market area in Tira, a popular Saturday shopping destination for Israel's Jewish citizens, was closed by order of the police, who said the closure was aimed at avoiding public disturbances and injury to citizens.

East Jerusalem was also quiet on Saturday morning, following large demonstrations and rioting that accompanied the burial of Muhammed Abu-Khdeir on Friday afternoon.

Abu-Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, was kidnapped and murdered earlier in the week. Police have not yet ascertained whether his murder was nationalistically or criminally motivated, but it is possible that the perpetrators were Jewish right-wing extremists taking revenge for the murder of three kidnapped Israeli boys last month.

In the south of the country, rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip continued to fall in and around Israeli towns in the regions bordering the strip. The Israel Defense Forces returned fire, striking several targets within the strip.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page that rioters "do not belong in the state of Israel – and until that is resolved, their place is in jail."

"It's good the police arrested the Arabs who rioted yesterday [in Israel's north]. We now expect the justice system to also do its part decisively and, through harsh punishment, deliver a clear message to those who enjoy Israeli citizenship and act as terrorists," he wrote.

Friday's rioting in the Arab north of the country broke out after large demonstrations were held in several towns to mark Abu-Khdeir's funeral. Hundreds of Israeli Arab citizens clashed with police on Friday evening, blocking several main roads with burning tires and garbage and throwing stones.

Israel Radio reported that masked men attacked a number of cars belonging to Jewish Israelis in the Arab-Israeli town of Kalanswa, beating the drivers and setting one of the cars on fire.

According to reports from local residents, police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the rioters.

Seven Palestinian rioters were reported lightly injured in the Israeli-Arab towns and 17 arrested. Police sources said more arrests were expected.

Fifty Palestinians were hospitalized overnight in Al-Mukasad hospital, the only hospital with an emergency ward in East Jerusalem, following the rioting in the capital. The majority of the wounds were caused by rubber bullets. Five of the wounded were reported to be in moderate condition, one suffering from fractures to his skull.

Thirteen policemen were lightly wounded during the clashes, which went on until 3:30 A.M., and 20 arrests were made.

On Friday night, police closed main roads in the areas of Tira, Taibeh and Kalanswa, preventing Jews from entering the areas.

Police have been out in force in the Triangle since Friday night attempting to maintain calm. They are being assisted by the local leadership.

"It should be stressed that alongside the right to protest, we regard very seriously any illegal gathering aimed at disturbing the public peace and endangering lives," a police source said.

Tira mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay said: "Not only the country's Arab citizens can be blamed for the disturbances. The ongoing incitement against Arabs and the attempts by the extreme right wing to inflame the Arab street through racist statements, calls for revenge and attempts to damage mosques and other property must be condemned."

He called on the residents of the town to act in a restrained manner and not be influenced by incitement and trouble-making, while the police and security services should do their job by arresting provocateurs and preventing damage to holy places and property.

Local committees have sprung up in many Arab communities in the Triangle and the Wadi Ara area to safeguard the mosques and patrol the communities at night.

Palestinian women watch from a rooftop during the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khudair in Shuafat, in East Jerusalem. July 4, 2014.

A protest march organized by the Arab-Jewish Hadash party took place in Sahnin on Friday night. The march stayed within the town's center and did not approach the major roads or cause friction with the police. Police have made several arrests in Wadi Arra over the past two days, connected with public disturbances and suspicion of stone throwing.

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