Israel Police Violate Deal With Palestinians, Approach Schools at Flashpoint East Jerusalem Neighborhood

According to locals, police agreed not to send policemen to schools during the daytime as students come and go in order to avoid tensions ■ Police deny a deal was reached

Palestinian girls walk by Israeli police officers in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah, on Friday, November 8, 2019.
Free Jerusalem

Residents of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyah said Friday that Israel Police violated an agreement it reached with them earlier this week not to approach the neighborhood's schools during daytime hours when students enter and leave.

These are moments when tensions between police and local youths run high, and sometimes erupt into clashes. Residents claim that police presence near the schools is unnecessary. 

Schoolchildren in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah during a strike on Monday, November 4, 2019.
Emil Salman
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47Haaretz

The agreement with the police, which was established on Monday, came following months of an ongoing police crackdown on the neighborhood, whose locals claim to be intrusive and excessive.

Issawiyah schools had even opened a WhatsApp group with the Israel Police to coordinate school operations, but claim that on Wednesday morning the agreement was breached and officers turned up at the entrances to schools. Residents say that if this continues, the schools will close their gates in the coming days. 

A source familiar with the developments says that the police's Jerusalem Disctrict commander, Doron Yadid, was angry with his officers for reaching the deal with Issawiyah residents and had ordered them to back out of it. According to the source, Yadid demanded that police officers be stationed at the entrances to school while students were going in to clarify that the deal was over. "It's clear that he decided to crush the deal," the source said. Police, meanwhile, deny that such an agreement was ever in place. 

Israeli security forces in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah, August 2019.
Emil Salman

Throughout the summer, police held a wide operation on the streets of Issawiyah, which included hundreds of arrests, ambushes and patrols in the neighborhood. Ahead of the new school year that started in September, parents in the neighborhood announced that they will not be sending their children to school as a form of protest. Issawyiah's mayor and Yadid then held two meetings with locals, in which they agreed to keep police away from the schools. The police did not uphold that initial agreement. 

Tensions reached a peak last week on Saturday, when policemen from the counter-terror unit broke into a school in Issawiyah and arrested a 16-year-old student. Police had claimed that the student hurled rocks toward policemen. In the process, policemen shoved the school principal and a guard who was watching over the scene at the entrance. Following this arrest, Issawiyah's parents' committee announced that it was halting school activities. Police arrested two members of the committee in order to try and deter them from continuing the school strike

On Monday, the committee reached a deal with police following the mediation of senior officials at the Jerusalem Municipality. But a little over a day later, locals learned that the police had broken the agreement. The appearance of cops at the entrance to schools infuriated residents, who accused both school principals and the parents' committee of folding to police pressure. 

The Israel Police stated in response to this report that "it's unclear to us which sources the information presented in this report rely on, because the Israel Police does not know of any agreements reached with locals." 

Also Friday, a 36-year-old woman living in Issawiyah suffered a head injury due to an altercation with an Israeli policeman. Rina Dirbas' family says that she was accompanying her 16-year-old son when he approached a group of policemen who summoned him on the street, requesting to hold a security check. An altercation ensued between several young Issawyiah residents and the police. Dirbas' family says that during the clashes, one of the policemen hit her between the eyes with the butt of his gun. Police has yet to respond to this complaint. 

Dirbas is suffering from fractures to her skull and a deep gash in her face. She was evacuated to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, where she underwent an operation. Police arrested her son, and he will be brought to a hearing to discuss the extension of his arrest at the Jerusalem District Court.