Protests erupt in Jaffa after Israel desecrates Muslim cemetery, digs up graves

Protests erupt in Jaffa after Israel desecrates Muslim cemetery, digs up graves
Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli riot police in the city of Jaffa after a Muslim cemetery was demolished.
3 min read
14 June, 2020
Palestinians perform Friday prayers before protesting in Jaffa [Getty]
Israeli police arrested 5 Palestinians amid protests in the city of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, after Israeli authorities demolished a historic Muslim cemetery, according to Israeli media reports.

On Monday, bulldozers began digging up graves in the Isaf cemetery - which dates back to Ottoman times - to make way for the construction of a housing project for homeless and impoverished residents in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality.

The destruction prompted Jaffa's Palestinian residents - who hold Israeli citizenship - to protest on Tuesday, with Israeli police using stun guns to disperse them, according to media reports.

According to Haaretz, hundreds of people, led by Jaffa's Muslim community, returned to the city's streets on Friday afternoon. The protests intensified at night when garbage bins and vehicles were torched.

One protester threw an improvised fire bomb at a municipal building, causing mild damage, Haaretz reported.

The protests, which clashed with Israeli police in riot gear, continued over the weekend.

According to the Times of Israel, two boys aged 13 and 15 were arrested on suspicion of setting a dumpster on fire, while two young men, aged 19 and 21, were arrested after allegedly throwing stones at the officers who arrested the boys. Police officers were not injured in the incident.

A 23-year-old man was separately arrested for aiming a laser beam at the pilot of a police helicopter.

On Saturday, the US embassy to Israel issued a security warning for Jaffa, urging US citizens to "remain vigilant" and "increase their security awareness".

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality said it will carry on with the construction plans, according to Haaretz.

"Those who are carrying out these acts are a handful of people who don't represent Jaffa residents, who respect and trust the municipality," the local authority said in a statement. "We won't accept any violent acts against municipality employees or vandalism to public property."

According to i24NEWSAbed Gazaabou Shehadeh, Tel Aviv's only Arab council member, said he intended to withdraw from the council over the "insensitive" decision.

Tarek Ashkar, the chairman of Jaffa's Muslim Council, told Haaretz the group opposes violence and property damage, but has also been subjected to police brutality.

"Everyone saw how armed forces from head to toe in guns and weapons - tools that are fit for war - faced off against ordinary civilians, all of whom just wanted to take part in a legitimate protest," said Ashkar.

"Why is everyone surprised at the burning of trash cans that cost a single shekel to the municipality, while ignoring all the facts that show the excessive violence practiced against Muslim residents in town?" he added.

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