JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities continued to enforce a strict crackdown on occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday following a deadly attack in front of the Old City on Friday night, with Palestinians saying they have been subjected to “collective punishment” through road closures, arbitrary searches, and mass detentions.
Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police have been conducting physical searches on Palestinians, including women and children, and forcing holders of West Bank IDs to board special buses that have been deployed across Jerusalem since the early hours of Saturday morning.
Over the course of Saturday, 350 Palestinians with West Bank IDs were rounded up, detained, and sent back the occupied West Bank on the police-marked buses, according to Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri.
The “deportations” followed a decision from the Israeli prime minister to revoke family visitation permits issued to Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel for Ramadan, as a punitive reaction to the attack, in which three Palestinian assailants were shot dead and one Israeli policewoman was fatally stabbed. According to Israeli news site Haaretz, 250,000 Palestinians had their permits revoked.
“I am from Bethlehem. An Israeli soldier stopped me while I was passing by Damascus Gate, searched me, and held me in the area until a bus came. I was forced to get on the bus and leave the city,” a Palestinian youth told Ma’an on Saturday.
Al-Samri said the justification for rescinding the permits was that the three slain Palestinian assailants were from the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, but said they had entered Jerusalem “illegally” — without having such permits.
Streets around the Old City, namely al-Misrara street, Salah al-Din street, and Sultan Suleiman street — where the combined shooting and stabbing attack occurred — were also closed to traffic, with both private vehicles and public transit being denied entry.
The security measures are expected to remain in force until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan near the end of June, according to al-Samri.
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Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem said they were also being subjected to “collective punishment,” and were being threatened and harassed by Israeli police.
One merchant highlighted that Israeli authorities were also restricting public buses from reaching certain bus stops, forcing locals to walk long distances.
Another local business owner on Sultan Suleiman street recalled that immediately following the attack on Friday night, Israeli forces raided all the shops in the area and and forced them to shut down, which coincided with iftar time, when Muslims observing Ramadan have their first meal after a day of fasting.
He reiterated previous witness testimonies, saying that Israeli forces had “indiscriminately opened fire” in the area during the attack, causing the injury of at least two bystanders, including local merchant Murad Shabana who was shot with a bullet in his leg, while a number of others were injured with shrapnel.
He said that the bodies of the three slain Palestinians remained on the ground until 11 p.m., more than three hours after they were shot dead.
The Israeli government has long faced criticism for their response to attacks, with rights groups saying the severe security measures amount to collective punishment and a violation of international law.
In June 2016, in the wake of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis dead, Israel imposed severe punitive measures across the occupied Palestinian territory in what the UN said could have amounted to collective punishment.
The hometown of the Tel Aviv shooters was sealed by Israeli forces, with the Israeli army detaining a number of locals during large-scale overnight raids there. Similarly, Deir Abu Meshal — the hometown of the three Palestinians slain in Friday’s attack — was raided and put under lockdown Saturday, as the Israeli army prepared to punitively demolish their families’ homes.
After last year’s Tel Aviv attack, Israeli authorities revoked 83,000 permits for Palestinians residing the occupied West Bank to visit Jerusalem and Israel for Ramadan, and suspended all agreements allowing Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip to travel to East Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli authorities also imposed a massive crackdown on undocumented Palestinian workers in Israel.
At the time, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the UN was “deeply concerned at the response of the Israeli authorities, which includes measures that may amount to collective punishment and will only increase the sense of injustice and frustration felt by Palestinians in this very tense time.”
While “Israel has a human rights obligation to bring those responsible to account for their crimes,” he continued, “the measures taken against the broader population punish not the perpetrators of the crime, but tens — maybe hundreds — of thousands of innocent Palestinians.”