There was an unprecedented deployment of Israeli police at street intersections and all around the north side of East Jerusalem’s Old City today. There were some big guns carried in each group.
The authorities said they anticipated major demonstrations denouncing the attacks on Gaza.
The white blimp was back — hovering, in a clear blue sky on a sunny but cold day, just over the Israeli police station next to the Israeli post office, near the Herod’s Gate and Damascus Gate entrances to the Old City.
The same Jerusalem security blimp shown hovering in sky in photo taken from the grounds of the Augusta Victoria hospital in September 2007
There were more police than people, one shopkeeper on Salah ed-Din Street told me at what was nearly tea-time. He said the area had been quiet all day. He did note that there were even two Magen David Adom ambulances — Israeli Red Star of David — parked beside the traffic circle between the American Consulate in East Jerusalem and the main East Jerusalem bus station, outside the northern perimeter of the Old City’s wall, just in case.
But, it was all quiet. There was actually much more action on the first day of the airstrikes just last Saturday.
Haaretz — which could see much more than I could — reported that there were demonstrations in Tehran, Damascus, the Sinai cities of el-Arish and Rafah, and also that “Small protests erupted as well in the Palestinian territories. In an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem, a group of youths threw stones and large blocks while Israeli anti-riot police on horseback dispersed them. Three dozen Palestinian women marched out of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate chanting, calling for revenge and urging Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to hit Tel Aviv with missiles. Police dispersed the crowd. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, thousands demonstrated in solidarity with Gazans, calling for Palestinian unity and accusing Arab leaders of silence over Israel’s bombardment”. This report can be read in full here.
There were some reports of an Israeli policeman “lightly injured” by stone-throwing at Shua’fat — meaning the refugee camp, and not the village — and this must be the “Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem” referred to in the article in Haaretz. The refugee camp has been quite deliberately isolated behind The Wall and a checkpoint, though it still is formally part of greater municipal Jerusalem.
Ma’an News Agency later posted its own compilation of demonstrations, which can be viewed here.
YNet reported much the same as I did just above — but YNet came to the conclusion that there were “Violent riots in Jerusalem”. The YNet report was subtitled: “Clashes break out between Arabs, police throughout capital. Protesters throw stones, Molotov cocktails at officers during rallies against Gaza operation”.
YNet also reported in the same story that “The Jerusalem police will stay fully deployed throughout the weekend” — making them happy for all the overtime pay they will collect, and also bringing greater joy to all the inhabitants of East Jerusalem for all the random security checks they can hope to endure. This report can be seen in full here .
The Jerusalem Post did not exaggerate in the alarmist way that YNet did. Its report said there were only “minor clashes”.
The U.S. Consulate sent out a Warden Message to warn American citizens of “Possible Demonstrations in Old City and Environs Friday, January 02, 2009” — but the message only arrived by email at 1:05 p.m. on Friday, too late to have been of any use, had there actually been demonstrations around the Friday prayers held just before that time.
In any case, the Warden Message was sent to alert “U.S. citizens of the possibility of a large demonstration Friday, January 2, 2009, in the Old City and other possible demonstrations throughout East Jerusalem in protest of the ongoing situation in Gaza. There is expected to be a heavy police presence in and around the Old City throughout the day … Access restrictions to the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and a heavy police presence may spark disturbances at entry points, to include the Damascus, Herod’s and Lion’s gates, in addition to random security checkpoints setup throughout the areas leading to the Old City. Heightened awareness should continue to be practiced when approaching established and random security checkpoints throughout the Jerusalem area, where crowds and the possibility of spontaneous disturbances may occur. American citizens should exercise caution, stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. In addition, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. Conflict and violence can occur and spread rapidly and unpredictably in the Gaza Strip. The State Department strongly recommends that American citizens refrain from all travel to the Gaza strip and that those already in Gaza depart immediately. This recommendation has been in effect since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza in October 2003. It applies to all Americans, including journalists and aid workers. No U.S. government official travel is permitted inside the Gaza Strip at this time”.