Israeli forces use live fire in clashes with Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem

Shuafat refugee camp during violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in East Jerusalem (Ammar Awad - Reuters)

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  October 13, 2022

Killing of Israeli soldier led to closure of refugee camp and worst violence in contested city in months.

Israeli forces have used live fire during confrontations with hundreds of Palestinian protesters throwing stones and firebombs in the worst violence in the contested city of Jerusalem in months, sparked by the search for a suspected Palestinian gunman.

The killing of an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in the neighbourhood of Shuafat on Saturday led to raids and the four-day closure of a nearby sprawling refugee camp. By Wednesday, with tensions soaring, Palestinians across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank launched a general strike in solidarity with the residents of Shuafat, and demonstrations overnight quickly turned violent, with clashes lasting into the early hours of Thursday.

Skirmishes between Israeli troops and border police and protesters broke out in a dozen East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, in which police said Palestinians threw firebombs, stones and fireworks at officers.

Israeli forces responded with live fire, teargas and stun grenades. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, and police said 23 people, half of them minors, were arrested.

By Thursday morning, the violence appeared to have subsided, with some streets of the Israeli-annexed side of Jerusalem filled with burned debris. Celebrations marking the end of the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot on Thursday evening, however, mean the city remains on edge.

The most serious unrest in months erupted after an armed man shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded three other people at the Shuafat junction checkpoint on Saturday. The suspect, named by Israeli police as 22-year-old Uday Tamimi, then ran into the nearby refugee camp, a run-down area home to 60,000 people.

A four-day shutdown of the camp’s two entrances severely disrupted residents’ lives, with dwindling supplies in markets, schools shut as teachers could not get to work, and people with hospital appointments or permits to work in Israel prevented from leaving.

While the Shuafat entry and exit points reopened on Thursday, officers were continuing to stop every car moving in and out, triggering snarling traffic jams.

“It has been a very hard few days, people have been suffering. We hope things will be more calm now, but we don’t know … They still haven’t found the shooter,” said Dr Salim Anati, the medical director of one of the camp’s health centres.

 “We have patients with chemotherapy or dialysis appointments who were not able to travel, the children were not in school. Measures like this are collective punishment.”

Events in Jerusalem this week come on top of a months-long Israeli military campaign in the north of the West Bank which has seen near-nightly confrontations between Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers and local militias in the cities of Jenin and Nablus. The operation, codenamed Breakwater, is one of the biggest outside wartime in decades.

More than 100 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed, making this year the deadliest in the West Bank since 2015. Another 1,500 people have been arrested.

The IDF, meanwhile, says Palestinian gun attacks targeting Israeli settlers and the military have risen threefold compared with last year, putting the number at 170 by September.

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian