Israeli Army to Take Control of Palestinian Neighborhoods in East Jerusalem

The deterioration of the security situation in neighborhoods behind Jerusalem's security barrier have forced the army to take stronger measures, army spokesman says

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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The security barrier running between the East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat (R) and Pisgat Ze'ev, both located in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, February 15, 2017.
The security barrier running between the East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat (R) and Pisgat Ze'ev, both located in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, February 15, 2017. Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli military is to take security control of neighborhoods over the security barrier in East Jerusalem as part of its redeployment to the area known as the "Jerusalem envelope," due to issues surrounding security and cooperation with police in these areas. The principal change will be in Kfar Akab, but it says that it intends for its activities in the Shuafat refugee camp to be carried out by police.

"Terrorism in recent years has characteristics other than those we have known in the past," said Israel Defense Forces spokesman Ronen Manelis, explaining the motive behind the decision. "There has been an increase in attacks carried out by Palestinians with Israeli ID cards, and at border crossings."

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He called the areas of which the IDF is to take control "cities of refuge for terrorists," and areas in which the IDF has not been active enough.

The means by which the army has until now been tackling the security situation in the area, including in its cooperation with Israel's police, he said, were insufficient.

"We are not changing the status of the crossings, nor are we taking control of any citizens," said Manelis, referring to concerns that Palesinian residents with Israeli citizenship will now be under control of the military. According to Manelis, the only change being made regards the re-distribution of security arrangements.

Two IDF regional units, the Binyamin and Etzion brigades, are responsible for security in the “Jerusalem envelope," an area outside the city in the West Bank. The Binyamin Brigade, located north of Jerusalem, will now be responsible for security in the entire region, including the Jerusalem neighbors that are within the municipal boundaries but located outside the separation barrier. These neighborhoods include Abu Dis, al-Azaria and other villages under the responsibility of the Etzion Brigade at present.

The Efraim Brigade will now take over responsibility for the northern part of the region for which the Binyamin Brigade is responsible, freeing up the Binyamin Brigade for its new responsibilities.

The changes will be implemented in cooperation with the other security forces, such as the police and Shin Bet security service. These organizations will continue to operate in the area as before, but from now on the overall security responsibility will belong to the brigade commander. A new body will be established in the coming days with representatives from all the relevant organizations.

"The new division of responsibility will help prevent terrorism in the region and improve the dialogue between the various bodies involved,” Manelis said.

Kafr Aqab is inside Jerusalem's borders but have been cut off from the city by the security barrier. Precise population figures of those living over the security barrier are unavailable, but estimates range between 100,000 and 150,000. Between one-half and two-thirds have blue Israeli ID cards and residency status. A recent survey by city water company Gihon put the population at 140,000.

Because these neighborhoods were severed from Jerusalem, the city and police provide few services and conditions have significantly deteriorated in recent years. Many of the terror attacks in 2015 were committed by people living beyond the separation barrier.

Violence in these neighborhoods and environs has spiked, as have the incidence of drug trafficking and illegal weapons possession. The infrastructure is poor. In the absence of municipal oversight, thousands of apartments have been built, overtaxing already-crumbling sewage, water and electricity systems.

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