'Third intifada' in east Jerusalem

Arab rioters preparing to do battle in east Jerusalem

Arab rioters preparing to do battle in east Jerusalem

"Palestinians used to want to leave the West Bank and move to east Jerusalem, to take advantage of the better conditions there. Now it's the opposite," said Zoheir Kawasmeh, as he looked at the rock-strewn street outside his home in the Silwan neighbourhood.

"Go to Ramallah, or Nablus, or Jenin, the economy there is flourishing and people are happy because, at least within the city, you don't see Israeli soldiers, just Palestinian police. Here there is a feeling that we are only going backwards."

It is not only Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who are noting the tension. "We already have a third intifada on our hands in east Jerusalem," said one IDF officer this week, "neighbourhoods like Silwan, Issawiya and Kalandiya are becoming battlefields. In the West Bank, though, we are keeping the calm in co-ordination with the Palestinian security forces."

The three "days of rage" planned by various Palestinian groups failed to materialise in the largest Palestinian concentration, the West Bank. In Hebron and Ramallah, Palestinian police prevented thousands of marchers from leaving the city centres and taking on Israeli forces. Despite the unity agreement signed three weeks ago between Fatah and Hamas, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority's policemen beat up Hamas supporters in Hebron when they refused to disperse.

"The co-ordination with the Palestinians is going as smoothly as before the agreement," said one IDF officer with satisfaction on Sunday. A handful of demonstrations at smaller villages took place with little violence, a few ended in stone-throwing but were dispersed by tear-gas with only light casualties.

The street battles in east Jerusalem ended differently, though. The police forces in the neighbourhood were under orders not to use live rounds, only tear gas. But 17-year-old Milad Ayyash, who was part of a group throwing rocks at the Beit Yohanatan building in the centre of Silwan, was shot and fatally wounded by an unknown shooter firing from a window on the fourth floor of the building. Jerusalem police are investigating who shot him.

Rock and Molotov cocktail throwing at the buildings occupied by Jewish settlers in Silwan has become a daily occurrence. "Kids do it on their way to school," said one Arab resident, "it's what they do."

Last updated: 2:34pm, May 19 2011