Arab Residents Decry 'Humiliating' Police Barricades in Israeli City Following Murders

'We want order, but the police isn’t the answer, it’s part of the problem,' argues Ramle resident, while another says the city now 'feels like a checkpoint'

A police barricade in Ramle’s Juarish neighborhood, August 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Residents of an Arab neighborhood in the central Israeli city of Ramle complain that barricades erected by the police are wreaking havoc on their daily routines.

The concrete obstacles were put up in Juarish after three men were murdered in or near the quarter in two weeks.

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Two weeks ago Hamouda Mughrabi, a businessman, was shot dead while driving in the neighborhood. Two men from the Little Triangle area of central Israel, both of whom have criminal records, were arrested as suspects in his murder.

Last week Muataz Shamali, 23, was shot and killed in a park in Juarish. The next day, gunman opened fire on his funeral procession, killing Sa’id Shamali, 24, a relative of the deceased.

The barriers were put up a week ago at the neighborhood’s entrance and interior.

Some barricades block the street completely, forcing drivers off the road and onto the dirt. Some residents say they are forced to remain at home and that service providers cannot reach them.

The disruptions forced the postponement of scheduled infrastructure work, and some residents worry they could prevent rescue crews from reaching Juarish in an emergency.

“There’s a closure on thousands of people in a city in the middle of the country, within the State of Israel,” said the head of the neighborhood committee, Adnan Jarashi. “All we lack is orange IDs,” he said, referring to distinctive cards issued to Palestinians in the West Bank.

“We’re in favor of enforcement, but the collective punishment that academics and physicians forced to drive through woods and orchards, suffer from is humiliating. We want there to be order here, but the police isn’t the answer, it’s part of the problem,” Jarashi said.

“We feel like we’re at the Hizmeh checkpoint” in the West Bank, said a woman who did not want to be named, referring to a crossing near Jerusalem.

Mino Abu Laban, a member of the Ramle City Council, said that while it’s important to increase enforcement in the neighborhood and to protect residents, they must be treated humanely. “I support police activity and presence, but it’s also important to be attentive to the residents and everything must be proportionate,” Abu Laban said.

“It’s very difficult to see the situation inside the neighborhood here, people who have lived here for decades feel that the place is alien to them,” said Hajj Alkareem Jarushi, who lives in Juarish.

Haaretz has learned that last week Arab members of the city council met with police officials to discuss the situation.

The councilors said that at a meeting on Wednesday, it was agreed that if the police obtained “satisfactory intelligence” by Friday, the barriers would be removed.

As of Friday, the barricades were still up. Rais Abu Saif, a lawyer representing residents of Juarish, said he would submit a petition on behalf of his clients if the situation did not change.

In a statement, the Israel Police said they are carrying out heightened activity in Ramle to strengthen the public’s sense of safety, as part of the fight against serious crime and the unlawful use and possession of weapons.

“As part of their operational activity, the Israel Police are conducting patrols, searches, roadblocks and intelligence activity,” the statement said.