Rare Israeli Nighttime Curfew on East Jerusalem Residents Goes Into Effect

Army uses British Mandate-era regulations against nine Palestinians from neighborhood that has become the flashpoint of an intense military campaign

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Israeli police in Isawiyah, East Jerusalem, November 2019.
Israeli police in Isawiyah, East Jerusalem, November 2019. Credit: Emil Salman

The Israeli military issued administrative detention orders against nine Palestinians from East Jerusalem, citing an emergency regulation from 1945 that has never before been used to impose night curfew on permanent residents.

The nine men, residents of the Isawiyah, will be required to remain in their home between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M. They are expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The orders, issued by the head of the Home Front Command, state that the curfew “is necessary to safeguard national security, public welfare and the maintenance of public order” amid an ongoing Israeli campaign in their neighborhood of Isawiya, which led to the arrest of over 600 residents but only a handful of indictments.

The emergency orders employed in this case give extensive authority to military commanders, and are generally used for demolitions and detention without trial almost exclusively in the West Bank, rather than within Israeli territory. Neither Palestinian nor Israeli lawyers in Jerusalem can remember a Home Front commander ever issuing personal administrative detention orders, and the use of such orders in Jerusalem is extremely rare.

The Israeli military said earlier this week said that such a decision “is made when defense officials have information pointing to a public security risk. This information... is based on classified intelligence, which cannot be released.” 

The police have launched an aggressive campaign in Isawiyah since summer, patrolling, setting up checkpoints and laying ambushes. Most evenings there are violent clashes between police and young men from the neighborhood. In the past, the nine men were charged with disrupting public order.

The men had been previously notified of the army’s intention to place them under nighttime curfew, and given 48 hours to respond to the warning notices they received. They were summoned for police questioning during the past week and during the session they were presented with an official warning document before the curfew orders were issued.

Issawiya residents notified of Israel's plan to place them under curfew pose for a photo in Jerusalem, December 2019.