Wednesday, September 16, 2015

16-Sep-15: Jerusalem Watch | Not-so-new New Year violence

Israel has just emerged from two days of national and religious observance of the New Year, and the start of the Ten Days of Penitence leading up to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur which falls on Wednesday September 23.

Jerusalem, explicitly and by name, appears over and again in the ancient prayers recited by Jews in every corner of the world. Today's Jerusalem, no less on the minds of Jews everywhere, has been the target of escalating violence from specific quarters and with not-so-mysterious motivations. Here's our brief run-down of the past two days.
  • Violence was clearly on the minds of Old City Arabs by Sunday, the eve of Rosh Hashana. "The clashes began Sunday morning, with security forces seizing pipe bombs at the site in an operation carried out hours before Jews prepared to celebrate the Jewish New Year. The Shin Bet security service alerted police to the cache, apparently an effort by Palestinians to stock up on bombs, flares and rocks ahead of an organized riot." [Times of Israel, September 13, 2015] There's little doubt the pre-emptive move by the police, along with good field intelligence, prevented a worse outcome.
Pipe bombs were seized in an Israel Police raid on the Temple Mount mosque on Sunday.
This image was posted by Gilad Erdan, MK, Minister for Public Security [Image Source]
  • From our Jerusalem home, we have seen considerable police helicopter activity above the Old City and Jerusalem's Arab suburbs tonight (it's now well after midnight, and signs of that activity have passed). 
  • Times of Israel quotes Israel Police Acting Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau saying tonight that there is currently an open-ended upgrading of Israel’s security presence in the capital with hundreds of extra officers on duty. The goal is to restore peace, prevent additional Arab violence and carry out arrests of those responsible for the numerous attacks of the past few days.
  • The same report says the police have intelligence about plans for ongoing Arab-initiated violence at and around the Temple Mount, including "stone-throwing and petrol-bomb throwing at police" like the attacks that have been happening since Sunday. 
  • Those police reports quoted in the Times of Israel report mention that "dozens of Palestinian youths stayed overnight in the al-Aqsa Mosque, and prepared petrol bombs, rocks, fireworks and other means to attack police and Jewish visitors to the holy site. Security officials blamed the Muslim authorities at the site for allowing it to be abused." Via the social media, images have been circulating by both Arab and non-Arab posters, including these:
Times of Israel published this image from a video released by the Israel Police Spokesman showing Palestinian Arabs gearing up for a confrontation on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, September 13, 2015. [Image Source]
Ready for prayer or other possibilities: Inside Al Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount this week [Image Source
Rocks stockpiled and walls taken down, inside Al Aqsa mosque on Monday [Image Source]
Al-Aqsa mosque aftermath [Via Alquds News yesterday]
  • Three Israelis, all of them civilians, were injured in the Old City of Jerusalem during Tuesday morning, the second day of Rosh Hashana, in an attack by a Palestinian Arab. The perpetrator was arrested.
  • Times of Israel: "In the Arab world, meanwhile, leaders issued a stream of denunciations of Israel’s actions at the site, with Jordan’s King Abdullah warning that bilateral ties would be affected if the violence continued."
  • Reuters on Monday: "The United States is deeply concerned by the increase in violence and escalating tensions surrounding the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount," said State Department spokesman John Kirby. "We strongly condemn all acts of violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserve unchanged the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount."
  • Sunday night: Around midnight, a vehicle came under rock attack in the Armon Hanatziv/Talpiot East neighborhood of southern Jerusalem. The spokesperson for Israel Police said the driver of the car evidently lost control and crashed into an electricity pole. The driver, Alexander Levlovitz, a 64-year-old Jerusalem resident, later died of his injuries at Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital. Two other passengers in his vehicle, so far un-named, were lightly injured. They were driving home from a Jewish New Year celebration. Jerusalemites are familiar with the long history of rock-hurling emanating from Jabel Mukaber, an Arab neighbourhood that abuts Talpiot East: we wrote about its violent history some months ago: see "20-May-15: Car-ramming attack again in Jerusalem"
The Israeli vehicle that came under rock-hurling attack on Sunday night [Image Source]

  • Oddly, neither Reuters nor the State Department appeared to have anything to say about the killing of the Israeli driver, or the seizing of the unexploded pipe bombs.

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