Israeli police arrested a Palestinian protest leader in the contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem on Sunday, a day after forcefully detaining a prominent Al Jazeera journalist covering the campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from the area.
The arrest Sunday of Muna al-Kurd, confirmed by phone by her father, Nabil, was the latest move by Israeli police to quell several days of tension in one of the most sensitive neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
It came as Givara Budeiri, a veteran correspondent for the Al Jazeera satellite channel who regularly covers the story, was released from a hospital with a broken hand that her boss said she sustained Saturday.
Nabil al-Kurd said Israeli police early Sunday “stormed the house in large numbers and in a barbaric manner,” saying they wanted to arrest Muna, 23, and her 22-year-old brother.
“I was sleeping and I found them in my bedroom,” Nabil al-Kurd said in a telephone interview. While his son was not home, police searched the house and arrested Muna, one of the most widely-known activists resisting the Israeli eviction drive. Video posted on social media, confirmed by Nabil, showed Muna being taken from the home in handcuffs.
“The reason for the arrest is that we say that we will not leave our homes, and they do not want anyone to express his opinion, they do not want anyone to tell the truth,” he said. “They want to silence us.”
Police later confirmed the arrest of a 23-year-old woman for allegedly participating in 'public disturbances' in Sheikh Jarrah.
The weekend's tensions began Saturday as Budeiri, wearing body armor marked “press,” covered a sit-in among activists. Witnesses and the satellite channel said that after the protest was over, Israeli police asked her for press identification. Budeiri offered to call her driver to retrieve it. Police instead surrounded her, pushed her and handcuffed her before leading her to a border police vehicle with darkened windows.
Budeiri was held for four hours before she was hospitalized with a broken hand, said Walid Omary, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Al Jazeera. Budeiri had been reporting regularly from Sheikh Jarrah, Omary said.
In video footage posted online, Budeiri can be seen handcuffed and surrounded by border police. Clutching her notebook, she is heard shouting, “Don't touch, enough, enough.”
Israeli police said Budeiri was detained after she was asked for identification, refused and pushed a police officer. But witnesses say Budeiri, who holds an Israeli press card, was not allowed to return to her car to get the document. Al Jazeera said her cameraman's video camera was also heavily damaged by police.
Oren Ziv, a cameraman on the scene, said the incident took only a few seconds. The officers did not wait for Budeiri to get her identification, he said. They took her to a waiting police vehicle with darkened windows, where she was put in the back seat with female officers.
Al Jazeera's acting director general, Mostefa Souag, condemned the police actions. “The systematic targeting of our journalists is in total violation of all international conventions,” he said.
“They are attacking the journalists in east Jerusalem because they don't want them to continue covering what's happening inside Sheikh Jarrah,” Omary said.
The tension in Sheikh Jarrah has fueled weeks of unrest and helped spark an Israel-Hamas war after the Islamic militant group fired several rockets toward Jerusalem on May 10, positioning itself as a defender of Palestinian rights in the holy city.
The war, in which 254 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel, ended May 21. In all, Gaza militants fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel, while Israel bombed hundreds of Gaza targets it said were linked to militants.
The most imminent Jerusalem evictions are on hold, following the intervention by Israel's attorney general, but the settlers' campaign continues.
Rights groups fear the evictions could still be carried out in the coming months as international attention wanes, potentially igniting another round of bloodshed. The Israeli watchdog Ir Amim, which closely follows the various court cases, estimates that at least 150 households in two neighborhoods are threatened with eviction.
Souag accused Israel of attempting to silence journalists in a systematic fashion. He noted that Budeiri's detention came after Israel's May 15 war-time destruction of a Gaza high-rise that housed the local office of Al Jazeera. The tower also housed the Gaza office of The Associated Press.
Israel has alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating from the building. The AP has said it has no indication of a purported Hamas presence in the building. It has called for an independent investigation. (AP)