'I Got a Rock in the Face': No Arrests After Series of Attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem

Joint List lawmaker Ahmed Tibi says the immunity is creating a 'police-approved jungle' after the spike in violence in Jerusalem

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Israeli security forces look on as Jewish settlers enter the occupied-West Bank town of Huwara waving Israeli flags from their car, last month.
Israeli security forces look on as Jewish settlers enter the occupied-West Bank town of Huwara waving Israeli flags from their car, last month.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Three weeks ago, Riyad Sumrin and his son Laith were driving on a dirt road that leads to their home in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem when they encountered a gathering of about 20 Jews, some of them armed.

“They started shouting at us, they raised a gun and told me to get out of the car and stand on the side” says Sumrin. He adds that his 23-year-old son tried to hold the door shut, but they managed to open it and started pulling him out.

“I was afraid,” the father says. “I wanted to say to them, ‘What are you doing?’ And then I got a rock in the face, I couldn’t see anything.”

As the young men were throwing punches at him, Sumrin tried to call his wife so that she could get help. A few minutes later, police officers arrived, as did some young people from the neighborhood and other family members. One was A., Sumrin’s 15-year-old son, who saw his father and brother laying injured on the ground. “He started yelling,” says his father.

The family says one of the police officers took hold of A. and tried to get him to calm down. But A., who was upset by what he was seeing, tried to get out of the policeman’s grip and struck him. He was arrested and taken for questioning, and only later brought to the hospital to be examined – where he was found to have a complex fracture of the hand.

A. was kept in detention for 24 hours before being released to house arrest, which he is still under. Last week he was charged with assaulting a police officer and other offenses.

His father, Riyad, was seriously injured in the incident and taken first to Al-Makassed Hospital and then to Hadassah Ein Kerem. He was in the hospital for 17 days, recovering from four fractures and numerous wounds to his face. He has not returned to work yet, and is not certain he will be able to. “How can I work when I can’t see?” he asks. His other son, Laifth, suffered serious wounds to his eyes and bruises to his body. The family car was also severely damaged.

The young assailants are believed to have been present in the area as participants in projects undertaken by the right-wing Elad organization in conjunction with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, under the aegis of the Jerusalem Municipality. These projects are classified as “educational activities” and held on a farm in the Gei Ben-Hinnom area in East Jerusalem that partly lies on privately owned Palestinian land.

The family filed a complaint with the police, but to date no one has been questioned. “The policeman who questioned me asked, ‘Why didn’t you film them?’ That’s his answer? How am I supposed to film in a situation like that?” Riyad says. His wife Fida was even called in for questioning over a complaint that the Jewish assailants filed against the family. “They beat us up, and then they lodge a complaint against us,” she remarks.

In the past week there were two more incidents in which Palestinians were assaulted in Jerusalem. On Thursday, two Palestinian municipal workers were attacked after blocking off a street in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood for work to be done there. They say a driver angered by the street closure asked if they were Arabs, and then called friends to join him and attack them.

The workers say dozens of Jews showed up, physically assaulted them and attacked them with rocks. One attacker pulled out a knife and slashed one of the workers, 21-year-old Basel Rashad, in the back. He needed dozens of stitches. His friend Amer Hijazi was beaten and his arm was broken.

In another incident, two Jews fired shots into the air at the Burj al-Laqlaq community center in the Old City. Palestinian witnesses say the pair entered the compound after shouting at them, fired about 10 shots into the air and left, without any police intervention. The police say the incident is under investigation.

“The violence and aggression on the part of settlers and the automatic backing they receive are creating a police-approved jungle,” Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi said.

Regarding the assault on the Sumrin family, the police issued a statement saying they “view any type of violence, whether against civilians or against the security forces, with the utmost severity. That same day the police dealt with a number of violent incidents and disturbances, and an investigation of this particular incident has been launched and is ongoing. Naturally, we cannot elaborate about ongoing investigations, except to say that we will continue to thoroughly investigate the incident and take all actions necessary to get to the truth and hold those involved to account.”

In regard to the incident in which the two municipal workers were attacked, the police say, “An initial investigation indicates that in the course of doing his job, a traffic inspector commented to a driver about the way he was driving. In response, the passengers in the vehicle got out and a brawl ensued during which one of the inspectors was injured.”

“The police forces that arrived on the scene began investigating the circumstances of the incident and collecting evidence and searching for suspects. One suspect, a 14-year-old minor, was identified and taken for questioning. Later in the day he will be brought to court to have his detention extended," the police added.

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