Israeli Officials Hope Calm Will Prevail as Nakba Day Begins

IDF officials expect that the demonstrations in East Jerusalem, which followed the killing of a Palestinian youth, will not spill over into the West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces is not expecting events commemorating the Nakba today to result in a conflagration in the territories. In spite of Palestinian declarations, the two days that preceded Nakba Day were not accompanied by unusual levels of protest.

The IDF assessment is that even the demonstrations in East Jerusalem - which followed the killing of a Palestinian youth, Milad Said Ayyash, on Friday in Silwan - will not spill over into the West Bank.

East Jerusalem Nakba - Emil Salman - May 14, 2011
Emil Salman

The army boosted its presence in Judea and Samaria last week with a number of regular battalions and Border Police units, in order to be ready for the possibility that Palestinians' planned processions and demonstrations would spill out of the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

The soldiers and officers were given specific orders to avoid using live fire as much as possible, and were provided with large quantities of "less lethal weapons" and means for dispersing demonstrations. However, senior officers in Central Command said last week that "the Palestinian security forces will be able to contain the events," and expressed confidence that they would prevent the demonstrators reaching areas under IDF control.

The events of the weekend have proven, for now, that the IDF assessments were correct. Like every Friday, Palestinians - along with members of the Israeli left and foreign activists - held a march and demonstration in a number of areas, included the villages of Bil'in, Na'alin, and Nabi Salah. These protests are against the cutting off of farmlands by the separation fence and settlements, but the extent of the demonstrations wasn't out of the ordinary.

The level of violence was also not unusual and could be summed up by the throwing of stones, the firing of tear gas and a small number of lightly injured persons.

The IDF monitored the response of the PA security forces, especially in light of the reconciliation agreement that was signed between Fatah and Hamas 10 days ago. They noted, with some satisfaction, that even though the Palestinian police allowed Hamas supporters to demonstrate in the area of Hebron under PA control, they prevented them from moving onto the area of the Jewish settlement in the city.

Palestinian police used violence to disperse Hamas supporters when the march turned into a demonstration.

Yesterday there were few registered incidents of violent clashes between Palestinian civilians and the IDF. Large events are expected today in a number of Palestinian cities.

On Friday, 17-year-old Milad Ayyash from Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem was killed by gunfire during a demonstration. His friends say he was shot by a man from a fourth floor window of Beit Yonatan - a settler building in the middle of Silwan.

Hundreds of police were deployed in the city and additional forces were brought in from other districts and deployed in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians claimed that, during the incident in which Ayyash was shot, the Border Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them as they tried to remove the fatally injured teenager.

Jerusalem police said they will launch an investigation into the killing of the youth, but said the fact that the family refuse to allow an autopsy is not contributing to the investigation.

Said Ayyash, the boy's father, blamed the Israeli government for the shooting: "This is not the first time that the government brought settlers into the middle of a crowded neighborhood," he said. "This is not haphazard, but part of a policy. The situation in Jerusalem is very difficult and will continue to deteriorate due to the policy of the municipality and the government, who want to raze homes." The Israeli left also linked the refusal of Jerusalem city mayor, Nir Barkat, to evacuate Beit Yonatan to the killing: "The killing of the youth is a direct result of the lack of willingness of the mayor to evacuate the home and to evict the settlers who took it over by force," said Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer.