In Rare Move, Palestinian Forces Go Into East Jerusalem Neighborhood After Triple Murder

Palestinian police need Israeli approval to enter Kafr Aqab, which is officially in Jerusalem but lies on the Palestinian side of Israel's West Bank wall. Locals say Israeli forces and authorities rarely police or even visit it

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Palestinian forces in Kafr Aqab, Jerusalem, January 2, 2021.
Palestinian forces in Kafr Aqab, Jerusalem, January 2, 2021.

Three men were shot to death on Saturday in Kafr Aqab, a neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Following the incident, which is said to be part of an ongoing family dispute, Israel took the unusual step of allowing armed Palestinian forces into the neighborhood, according to sources in the village.

Kafr Aqab is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and falles under Israel Police’s authority, but sits on the West Bank side of a barrier Israel built two decades ago.

The dead were identified as Adnan, 28, Haitham, 42, and Issam Rajabi, 47. Sources in the village said they were shot by a family member as part of a longstanding feud between two sides of the family.

The conflict flared anew two days ago apparently over a feud about a parking spot and the three men were invited to a discussion, during which an argument broke out and they were shot and killed on the spot.

Afterwards, a large contingent of Palestinian forces of an elite unit called 101 entered the village. Village sources said the forces received Israeli approval to go in to restore calm and order. Locals say the last time Palestinian forces were allowed entry into the village was in March after a shooting incident between local Palestinians.

Some 70,000 people live in Kafr Aqab, which is just north of the barrier, near the Kalandiya crossing between Israel and the West Bank. Israel considers part of the village’s land to be in Jerusalem. But Israeli authorities largely abandoned the area after the barrier was built, similar to other cases such as the Shoafat refugee camp, which is also located behind an Israel-built barrier.

A view of Kafr Aqab and Israel's West Bank barrier, East Jerusalem, October 2017.Credit: Emil Salman

Police, municipal authorities and other forces seldom enter Kafr Aqab despite ongoing reports from residents regarding difficult incidents of violence, failing infrastructure and poor sanitary conditions.

In July 2020, a Kafr Aqab resident was shot to death, but Israeli police did not arrive to the scene of the shooting, citing that it is  beyond the West Bank separation wall.

A few hours after the crime was committed, two apartments were set on fire in a building where, according to residents, two of the families that committed the murder live. The residents called the fire service, but the firetrucks had to wait at the Qalandiyah checkpoint for a military escort, and the fire was eventually put out by the residents themselves, with help from Palestinian Authority firefighters.

Following the incident, Israeli Police launched an investigation.

In April 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus in Israel and the West Bank, Israel stopped Palestinian police intending to enforce coronavirus regulations from entering Kafr Aqab.

Local authorities in Kafr Aqab were trying to impose a lockdown, as Israeli forces had not been there to enforce the lockdown. On their way to the neighborhood, Palestinian forces received an order from Israel not to enter and withdrew.

Jack Khoury contributed to this report.

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