Israel Hurriedly Clears Sheikh Jarrah Checkpoints, Lifting Two-month Ban on Non-residents

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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A person walks through an empty police checkpoint at the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, today.
A person walks through an empty police checkpoint at the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, today.Credit: Emil Salman
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Israel Police unexpectedly removed  the checkpoints from the entrance of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday, practically lifting a two-month ban on non-residents from entering the neighborhood.

Two months ago, Israel Police had beefed up its presence and installed checkpoints in the flash point neighborhood after far-right Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir dismantled his temporary office there at the behest of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ben Gvir's office was erected amid a period of heightened tensions in Israel, leading to frequent clashes between police and Palestinian residents of the neighborhood.

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Since the checkpoints were placed, police allowed only residents and journalists to enter the neighborhood, a decision that stirred up anger among Palestinians and gave rise to unrest in recent weeks.

Last month, following a car-ramming attack in the checkpoint, in which seven officers were injured, Israel Police decided to place concrete barricades around the checkpoint in an effort to protect the forces stationed there.

While the police said that the concrete barricades will stay in place, the forces occupying the position were redeployed out of "operational concerns." Police added that if necessary, the forces can be reinstalled at any point.

According to the neighborhood's residents, police removed the checkpoints in light of a U.S. envoy visit to the neighborhood. "Police wish to seemingly show as if everything is normal and there are no restrictions," Mohammad Sabah, an activist, said.

Palestinian residents are also concerned that moving forces from the neighborhood may renew clashes between residents and Jewish settlers. "If we will protect ourselves we will be arrested, we need protection," said Salah Diab, a Sheikh Jarrah resident.

For nearly 15 years, Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood have been fighting attempts by right-wing Jewish settler organizations to take over their homes. Until recently, their struggle was not widely publicized.

In recent months, the plight of a handful of local families has captured international attention, becoming a rallying cry for advocates of the Palestinian cause worldwide.  

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel demolished a Palestinian shop in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday, triggering scuffles between police and protesters who accused authorities of discriminatory enforcement of building permits in the holy city.

At least, 13 people were lightly injured by sponge-tipped bullet fire and stun grenades, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Israel Police said two officers were injured and three were arrested.

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