Israeli Refusal to Release Palestinian's Body Stirs Unrest in East Jerusalem

Israel's police commissioner recommended keeping the body out of fear that the funeral will lead to riots, while hundreds of Palestinians hold nightly demonstrations in response

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Israeli police detain a Palestinian as they escort a group of Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount, Tuesday.Credit: AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

Israel’s refusal to release the body of a slain Palestinian attacker from East Jerusalem, coupled with a recent increase in the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount, have sparked nightly clashes between Palestinians and police in the capital since last Thursday.

“There’s anger in every neighborhood in East Jerusalem,” said a resident of the Isawiyah neighborhood. “It’s a pressure cooker that will ultimately explode, and after what happened in Jenin today, people are frustrated,” he added, referring to an army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in which Palestinians say four people were killed and at least 44 wounded.

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The slain Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Jumaa of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, carried out an attack at the Shilat Junction next to Modi’in last week that wounded eight people. A Border Policeman who was there shot and killed him, and since then, Israel has been holding the body, on the recommendation of officials, among them, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

The refusal to release the body stems from fear that the funeral, which would take place in East Jerusalem, will lead to riots in the already tense city. A senior police officer said the body will be returned to Abu Jumaa’s family only after the end of the Jewish holidays in mid-October, and only if East Jerusalem is relatively quiet.

In response, hundreds of Palestinians have been holding nightly demonstrations in A-Tur and other nearby neighborhoods, including Silwan and Sur Baher, since last Thursday. During these protests, trash cans and other property have been torched and stones and firebombs have been hurled at the police. The latter responded with crowd-control measures.

According to Palestinians, 15 demonstrators have been injured by tear gas and one by a rubber bullet.

On Tuesday, police arrested two demonstrators from Sur Baher, aged 14 and 18. Police said one was holding fireworks that he was about to throw, along with a Palestinian flag, and that when they searched him, they also found a knife. In addition, police said they found several firebombs in the neighborhood.

Security sources said the situation has been exacerbated by incitement in Palestinian media outlets and social media over Jews visiting the Temple Mount. Activists who encourage Jewish visits to the mount said there were 1,083 Jewish visitors on Rosh Hashanah, twice as many as last Rosh Hashanah. Two of them blew shofars at the site and were removed by the police.

Masked Palestinians barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and threw fireworks at the Jewish visitors. Police arrested one and issued restraining orders barring the others from the site.

“Jerusalem residents want to live quietly,” one Isawiyah resident said. “The unrest and disturbances are coming from the other side. They’re letting [Jewish] people enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, they’re praying, everything has changed. The police are issuing restraining orders against Palestinians.

“It’s extremely upsetting to see the difference in the treatment of Jews and Palestinians,” he added. “People see this and they boil over.”

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