The Israeli police force said it had arrested 348 suspects in recent days while surrounding alleged participants in the deadly disorder in Israel and the Palestinian territories for years.
The announcement late Thursday confirmed reports from Adalah, an independent human rights organization in Israel, that said at least 200 Palestinians in Israel had been arrested this week, describing racism as a way to “intimidate and exact revenge.” “.
Israel last week accepted one cease fire with Palestinian militant group Hamas after an 11-day conflict that saw Hamas fire deep rockets at the Jewish state and Israel launch its heaviest assault on Gaza in seven years, killing about 250 Palestinians, including women and children. About 13 people in Israel have died.
That conflict also erupted communal agitation between Palestinians with Israeli nationality and Jews, a rarity that shakes political leaders and wider society in Israel, and widespread unrest in the West Bank. After the ceasefire, there were sporadic clashes between police and young people in the West Bank.
This week’s crackdown on protesters threatens to escalate unrest, militants warn, ahead of a so-called “day of rage” Friday called by Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.
This week police launched Operation “Law and Order”, describing it as “a complete deployment against riots, criminals and all those involved”. On Thursday, police said the operation will continue next week, focusing on people with illegal weapons. The round-up is based on 1,938 arrests made during the Israeli bombing of Gaza.
“We will continue to work with the great forces we have … to ensure that people who harm the safety of citizens are arrested and prosecuted, and the streets remain calm,” said Yaakov Shabtai, the police commissioner. Police did not provide a breakdown of the suspects ’ethnic origin.
Mariam Afifi, 26, was arrested when she tried to help a woman who had fainted outside Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem threatened with eviction. She was accused of throwing rocks and attacking police, but was released after video evidence showed she was being manipulated by an officer. Protesters were encouraged by the power of social media, he said. “All we have seen is losing land and more Israeli settlements,” he said. “The situation is deteriorating.”
Shadi Kharouf, 25, said he had been arrested and beaten in the Old Town after intervening to help a young woman whose headscarf had been ripped off by a police officer. He spent a week in prison before a court arrested him at home awaiting conviction for attacking police. “He wasn’t a politician,” he said. “All he was doing was defending a ‘sister’ without even touching the officer.”
Kharouf’s release conditions include a three-month ban from the al-Aqsa mosque, the epicenter of the recent riots. The mosque is housed in a compound – known to Muslims as Haram ash-Sharif, or noble shrine, and to Jews as Temple Mount – that is sacred to both religions.
Despite the ceasefire, tensions have remained high due to the increased number of Israeli “settlers” allowed in the compound by Israeli authorities. The Palestinians say these are extremist groups that are making a claim with the ultimate goal of building a third Jewish temple here.
Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of the mosque, said the actions of the settler and the aggressive police risk inciting even Palestinians and Muslims around the world. “Their provocations are the reason for this unrest and instability,” he said. “We think there is war every time we get to this sacred place.”