Dozens of Jaffa residents clashed with Israel Police Wednesday when the detention of a 16-year-old who refused to provide his identity to police escalated into a demonstration.
Four demonstrators were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct after they allegedly tried to help the teenager flee from the checkpoint where he had been stopped, which was set up near the neighborhood of Ajami to enforce movement restrictions in Israel’s coronavirus lockdown.
During the clashes, demonstrators burned tires in an attempt to block police and security forces that made use of stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Several residents said the incident was indicative of a police bias toward the neighborhood, which they claim has been growing worse in recent weeks.
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However, a police source claimed the situation escalated only after the officer, who attempted to ensure the teen was not violating movement restrictions, felt threatened by the boy's family and called for assistance.
The 16-year-old was handed a fine for allegedly violating emergency regulations, while a woman who was at the scene was hurt and received medical assistance.
“I was standing there with my son, and we were watching the arrest,” the woman told Haaretz. “The police suddenly started hitting the guys who were standing there, and me. They choked me when I asked them not to touch my son, and a policewoman shoved me. We’re not in the territories. We don’t want war.”
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A local resident told Haaretz: “The situation got out of control. It’s been like this for a month now, and all of Jaffa is blowing up. There’s serious violence between the police and young people in Jaffa, and the policemen act like criminals – they hit first, and ask questions later. Instead of helping us, they’re pummeling us. It’s impossible to tolerate.”
The lawyer of the suspects arrested on Wednesday, Walid Kaboub, said: “This is ongoing harassment of Jaffa’s Arabs by the policemen of the police’s riot control unit, and unbridled, brutal behavior by bad apples in the police. The videos from the scene clearly point to a violent, nightmare scenario starring the same policemen who mercilessly beat adolescents and a woman.”
The police said in a statement that it was “devoting much effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Lack of cooperation with police will encounter a determined response. The police respect the freedom to demonstrate, but in this case the demonstrators violently disturbed the peace and acted against Health Ministry instructions.”
A police source told Haaretz that the police officer detained the teen only to order him to return to his home, but was surrounded by the boy's family and felt threatened. This led him to call for assistance, the source said, and the teenager received a fine for violating Health Ministry regulations by being more than 100 meters (330 feet) from his home.
The source added that things swiftly escalated, mainly due to footage of the detention which circulated on social media that showed a woman who fell on the ground. The police are working to "quell the flames," and prevent further confrontations, the source said.
Wednesday’s confrontation came less than a month after two Jaffa residents were assaulted by police during their arrest. The police said the two interfered with officers’ attempt to locate suspects who had attacked them, and the Justice Ministry department tasked with investigating alleged police misconduct has been investigating the incident, which was captured on camera.