Riots Erupt in East Jerusalem After Guard Kills Palestinian

East Jerusalem's most violent disturbances in recent months broke out yesterday, after a Silwan resident was shot to death by a Housing Ministry guard.

Palestinians destroying a car   AP

The guard, hired to protect the Israeli residents of the neighborhood's Beit Yehonatan, shot and killed Samir Sirhan, 32, around 3:30 A.M. Wednesday morning.

The guard told investigators he was going to refuel his armored vehicle when he encountered a group of young men in the middle of Silwan. The men blocked the road with trash cans and threw stones at him, he told investigators.

He got out of the car to drive them away, and when he returned to the car, the engine would not start, he told investigators. Fearing for his safety due to the stones, he fired into the air, he said.

Sirhan was standing above the road and was hit by a bullet fired into the air, the guard said.

Silwan residents have called the guard's story illogical, although the police apparently have accepted it.

"The initial investigation shows the guard found himself in a life-threatening ambush and therefore opened fire," Jerusalem District Police Commissioner Aharon Franco told the media.

A Jewish doctor living in the nearby City of David came to the aid of Sirhan, a father of five, but could not resuscitate him. The doctor noted that he did not have any equipment, because it was burnt during the last round of disturbances in the neighborhood, about a month ago, when Palestinians torched cars.

The guard feared he was going to be kidnapped and therefore acted as he did, said Ofer Rosenman, manager of Ilit Security, a company that trains the Housing Ministry guards.

"In Silwan there is a vacuum of law and order. The guards face stones daily and their requests for means of dispersing demonstrators have been turned down," Rosenman said.

The Housing Ministry said in an official statement, "The guard found himself in a life-threatening potential lynching and in response fired in self defense."

Silwan residents called the guard's explanations illogical, and said they saw no stones or other objects in the street after the shooting. There was no other evidence stones had been thrown at the guard, they said.

In the disturbances that ensued, three Israelis were injured by stones near the Augusta Victoria hospital on Mount Scopus.

Peace sukkah

Yesterday, a sukkah set up in Sheikh Jarrah by peace activists was razed three times by municipal workers, who said it needed a permit.

The sukkah was set up by a group calling itself Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, in order to hold protests during the holiday against Jews moving into the East Jerusalem neighborhood.