The Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies (PCHR) confirmed that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of arrests Israel has carried out against Palestinians in Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, monitoring more than 900 cases of arrests around the Holy City.
Media spokesman for the centre, researcher Riyad Al-Ashqar, said that the arrests taking place only in Jerusalem constitute one-third of the total arrests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) during the first half of the year. The total amounted to 2,600 detention cases, indicating a clear targeting of Jerusalemites in order to deter them from protecting the holy sites and defending Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Al-Ashqar declared that the largest arrest campaign targeting Jerusalemites occurred in February, when the Golden Gate (Bab Al-Rahma) was opened to worshippers. Dozens of people were arrested including national leaders and clerics, namely Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, Head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council and his deputy, Najeh Bkerat. Sheikh Raed Dana was removed from Al-Aqsa for six months and Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) director in Jerusalem, Nasser Qaws, was arrested.
Al-Ashqar also highlighted that the arrests targeted different groups of Jerusalemites in all the villages, towns and neighbourhoods of the city. Al-Issawiya was the most affected by these arrests – amounting to 295 – followed by 130 in Shu’afat, 120 in Silwan, 105 in the Old City and 65 in the Al-Aqsa compound.
Al-Ashqar also pointed out that arrests targeting children in Jerusalem amounted to 300 cases – one third of the arrests since early 2019 – among whom there were more than 17 children under the age of 12.
Among those arrested was Ali Taha, a 16-year-old who was shot by Israeli forces at a roadblock outside Shu’afat refugee camp. He was arrested, dragged to the ground and denied medical treatment. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Issam Al-Qawasmi was shot in the back by Mista’arvim (undercover Israeli forces) in the same camp. He was seriously injured and is currently undergoing treatment while being handcuffed to the hospital bed.
Israel did not only order Jerusalemite children to be arrested but also subjected them to house arrest, which stipulates the child must stay inside the house for certain periods of time. Thus, the child is prohibited from leaving the house even for treatment or study. Other children had to be expelled from their homes and pay heavy fines after being brought before Israeli courts. They were sentenced to actual prison terms accompanied by a fine, or a fine in exchange for their release.
Arresting Female Jerusalemites
Al-Ashqar added that Israel’s campaigns also targeted women, especially those staying at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The number of arrests among women and girls in Jerusalem amounted to 43, including minors. Most were released on condition of house arrest or expulsion from Al-Aqsa.
Among the women arrested was Ghadeer Al-Amouri, an employee of the Commission of Detainees Affairs. She was released in exchange for five days of house arrest and a heavy fine. Nineteen-year-old Fatma Suleiman was also arrested after Israeli forces stormed her family home; she was released hours later on condition of house arrest. Meanwhile 17-year-old Magda Ahmed Askar was arrested after Israeli forces also broke into her family’s home.
Females staying at Al-Aqsa Mosque were also subject to arrest and summoning, most notably Aya Abu Nab, Hanadi Halawani, Khadija Khois and Nazmiya Bkerat, an employee at the Manuscripts Section at Al-Aqsa. Hala Al-Sherif, from Damascus Gate, was arrested for raising the Palestinian flag during a march by Israeli settlers carrying Israeli flags.
Three of the prisoners’ mothers were arrested “immediately after they left Al-Aqsa Mosque and were subjected to investigation at Qishla police station in the Old City of Jerusalem”. These were Khouloud Al-A’war, mother of detainee Suhaib Al-A’war, Iman Al-A’war, mother of detainee Mohammed Al-A’war, and Najah Awda.