Palestinian activists say new law passed by Israeli parliament is “repressive” and “racist”.
Issawiya, occupied East Jerusalem – The sounds of burning tyres, screaming ambulances, and intermittent gunshots accompanied the acrid smell of tear gas enveloping a wave of Palestinian youth facing off against Israeli special security forces raiding the village of Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem last week.
Nasser Barakat, 16, and his friends ran towards the soldiers, throwing small rocks and Molotov cocktails before retreating under a hail of rubber-coated steel bullets, live ammunition, and tear gas canisters. They were taking part in Friday’s “Day of Rage” protests against Israeli incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“I take part in protests regularly. Several months ago, I was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet by Israeli police and jailed for several days,” Barakat, who spoke under a pseudonym due to safety concerns, told Al Jazeera. “I know that I could now be killed or face many years in jail when the new open-fire regulations are permanently implemented. But the Israeli occupation will not stop without resistance.”
Following months of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and protesting Palestinian youths, Israeli security forces last week were given the green light to open fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in East Jerusalem with the 0.22-calibre Ruger rifles used by snipers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed at a cabinet meeting on Sunday that Israeli police had already started implementing the new procedures over the weekend. But on Monday, the new open-fire regulations were temporarily suspended until police snipers received proper training.
In addition to the new regulations, the Israeli government also wants to implement further draconian measures that include: administrative detention for arrested stone-throwers, even children as young as 12, possible jail terms of up to 10 years for stone-throwing, up to 20 years for throwing Molotov cocktails, and heavy fines for the parents of stone-throwers.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson declined to comment when asked by Al Jazeera whether the new regulations would put an end to the escalating clashes at Al-Aqsa.
Critics, however, have warned the new measures will backfire.
“These new Israeli measures will not stop the riots and protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” said Ayed Abu Qtaish from the Defence of Children International – Palestine Section in Ramallah. “Hundreds of Palestinians, including many minors, were arrested last year during clashes in the wake of the Gaza war and the burning murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Israeli settlers. They were abused during transfer to detention facilities and during interrogation. Yet, the rioting and protests continue unabated.”
The new measures being applied to East Jerusalem residents already apply to Palestinians in the West Bank who are subject to Israel’s Civil Administration’s military rule. Previously, Palestinians in East Jerusalem were subject to Israeli civilian law.
“However, the reality is that the children in East Jerusalem, who, in theory, are supposed to have more rights than their West Bank counterparts, are treated differently in practise,” Abu Qtaish told Al Jazeera. “Under Israeli law, children are supposed to be accompanied by an adult during arrest and interrogation, while physical abuse is prohibited. In the majority of cases, these regulations are ignored when they apply to Palestinian children.
“What needs to be addressed are the underlying causes of Palestinian anger: the settlements, the attacks on Al-Aqsa, and the discriminatory policies – not more repression,” he said.
Since we started protesting 10 years ago, over 170 people from our village have been injured and arrested ... As soon as they were released from prison and had recovered from their injuries, they were back protesting.
Human rights organisations have also warned that the new legislation could lead to more Palestinian casualties, further fuelling the cycle of violence.
“Israeli security forces using live ammunition will mean more Palestinians killed, which will lead to further anger and more clashes,” said Tahseen Elayyan from Al-Haq human rights organisation in Ramallah.
“These open-fire regulations will not apply to Israeli Jews living in East Jerusalem or Israel as they are applied to Palestinians living in Israel. This further enforces Palestinians’ perception that they are discriminated against and are second-class citizens,” Elayyan told Al Jazeera. “Furthermore, Israel’s plan to detain stone-throwers in administrative detention is a violation of international law when it is applied to children, especially those as young as 12.”
Meanwhile, Murad Shtawi, the coordinator of protests in the northern West Bank village of Kafr Qaddoum, said nothing will stop Palestinians from fighting for their rights.
“Since we started protesting 10 years ago, over 170 people from our village have been injured and arrested. Fifty of them were shot with live ammunition. As soon as they were released from prison and had recovered from their injuries, they were back protesting,” Shtawi told Al Jazeera. “We’ve also paid over 300,000 shekels [$76,000] in fines, and this was before the new repressive policies, which will be even more expensive. There is no price tag on our freedom.”
East Jerusalem activist Fakri Abu Diab, from the Silwan Protection Committee, which is fighting Israel’s Judaisation of East Jerusalem, said Palestinians would continue their resistance.
“We will continue to fight for Al-Aqsa, even at the cost of our lives,” Abu Diab told Al Jazeera. “We will make the settlers’ takeover as hard as possible.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization has also weighed in, calling for “confronting Israeli terror schemes”, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused the settlers of desecrating Palestinian holy sites with “their filthy feet”. Hamas and other resistance factions have also promised retaliation.