Thousands protest against IDF’s Gaza operation, throwing rocks, firebombs and fireworks at Israeli security forces near Kalandia checkpoint; hundreds of officers to blanket Old City to ensure safety, citing threats of rioting.

kalandia checkpoint

Protests near the Kalandia checkpoint, July 24-25, 2014. Photo: SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Violence broke out Thursday night near the Kalandia checkpoint, located in the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah, as residents of the West Bank village clashed with police in protests against the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

Some 10,000 Palestinians protested near the checkpoint, throwing rocks, firebombs and fireworks at Israeli security forces, and setting tires ablaze. The IDF forces and Border Police were using crowd dispersal means on the masses.

According to the Palestinian reports, two demonstrators were killed by Israeli security forces and dozens wounded. Thirteen Israeli police officers were lightly injured.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office did not confirm the Palestinian casualties. The military was checking reports of live fire targeting Israeli forces at the checkpoint.

The protest erupted after allies of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement marched from the West Bank city of Ramallah to the edges of Jerusalem in protest against Israel’s 17-day-old campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Police so far arrested 39 Arab suspects during the protests.

Earlier on Thursday, Israel Police arrested nine suspects in east Jerusalem, for disrupting the peace and attacking police officers, near the Old City. The police said it used crowd dispersal methods to restore order.

At the same time, near the Temple Mount, dozens of east Jerusalem residents threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police forces. The police said said they have arrested 10 suspects, and that two police officers were lightly injured during the clash.

As police prepared for Friday prayers, they planed to heighten security in the Old City and throughout Jerusalem, as Operation Protective Edge enters its third week, fueling already heightened tensions between Arabs and Jews in the capital.

Citing anonymous threats of Arab rioting expected near Damascus Gate, National Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday that hundreds of officers will be on hand near the east Jerusalem entrance Friday to ensure no incidents take place.

“Police are making preparations for the thousands of people expected to the Old City to pray during Ramadan,” he said. “We have received information that there will be disturbances, so we are leaving nothing to chance to ensure the safety of residents.”

To that end, Rosenfeld said no Arabs under 50-years-old will be permitted to enter Damascus Gate, and undercover teams and various other elite units will blanket the area to respond immediately to any violence.

Since the brutal revenge murder of Mohammed Abu Khedeir earlier this month, several communities in east Jerusalem, have been embroiled in rioting, resulting in dozens of arrests and the destruction of municipal property, including two light rail stations.

As a result, last week Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced an unprecedented police aerial surveillance pilot program to monitor at-risk neighborhoods from the sky by utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles, which look like miniature helicopters.

Noting the destruction the riots caused to light-rail stations in Shuafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods, Barkat said it is imperative that police take all available measures to ensure residents’ safety.

The helicopters are equipped with high definition and thermal imaging cameras for night, which transmit live footage to an area police precinct.