As the investigation continues into an incident two weeks ago in which a Palestinian was shot in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Haaretz has obtained video footage that allegedly shows security guards employed by the Construction and Housing Ministry to protect Jewish residents of the neighborhood, hitting – for no apparent reason – a Palestinian youth. As a result of the December 15 incident, a clash began between a number of Palestinian youths and Border Police officers and the guards.
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Two days later, another incident broke out in the same place, and this time the guards opened fire. The father of a youth who was involved in the first incident was wounded. The police questioned the security guards involved “under caution,” meaning they may be considered suspects in committing a crime.
In the video, filmed on December 15 by a security camera, a small parking area facing Beit Yonatan, the largest housing complex for Jewish settlers in Silwan, can be seen. A Palestinian youth can be seen lying behind a low fence. Palestinian residents claim he was there picking up empty bottles. Alongside him stands security guard D.
At a later stage, two friends of the young man can be seen coming close to him and then for no visible reason D. hits one of the young men in the face; and immediately afterwards the two Palestinians can be seen exchanging blows with six security guards and Border Police officers who arrived at the scene. At the end of the incident, the police separated between the guards and the youths, and let the Palestinians continue on their way.
The security guard who hit the Palestinian first was removed from the area.
Two days later, on Saturday night December 17, another brawl broke out between the security guards and local residents. The incident began around 8 P.M. in the heart of Silwan. About 15 Jewish families affiliated with the Ateret Cohanim nonprofit organization live in the area.
The violence escalated as the Palestinians began to throw rocks and other objects at the guards. At first the guards responded by throwing objects back at the Palestinians, but later fired in the air and in the direction of the residents.
Musa Qara’in, a Silwan resident in his 40s, was wounded by a bullet in his leg. Qara’in is the father of one of the youths in the video clip of the first incident two days earlier. He was taken to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.
Three of the young Palestinians were arrested, while others were called in by police for questioning. On Wednesday, Qara’in too was called in for questioning under caution as a suspect. The police also questioned the three security guards who fired shots as suspects.
The methods used by private security guards for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem have been criticized in the past. As opposed to police officers, the security guards do not have equipment to protect themselves or nonlethal weapons such as tear gas grenades, stun grenades or sponge-tipped bullets – so they are forced to use their guns.
In at least one case in the past, a Silwan resident was shot and killed by a security guard. In another incident, which was not investigated conclusively, it is suspected that another person was shot and killed by a security guard.
When Ariel Sharon served as Housing Minister, a decision was made that all the security for the Jewish compounds in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be the responsibility of the Housing Ministry. This year, this security budget was about 75 million shekels ($19.5 million). In the past, the cabinet has decided to transfer the responsibility for protecting the Jewish residents to the Israel Police, but this decision has never been implemented.
In 2011, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the court in the name of Silwan residents against the continued employment of private security guards in Palestinian neighborhoods, but the petition was rejected.
“The children are scared to walk through the neighborhood, they don’t want to go to school because they are so afraid of the security guards at Beit Yehonatan,” says Zohar Rajbi, a resident of Silwan.
The Housing Ministry said the incident is under police investigation and therefore they are unable to comment.