Videos and photos point to claims that armed Jewish Israeli mobs are getting organised in attacking Palestinians under the watchful eye of the police.
In the mixed Arab-Israeli Israeli city of Jaffa, a group of Jewish men and women armed with grenades had an unfamiliar patch on their vests that left bystanders confused: part Israeli flag, part skull.
Are they an armed private militia or an unknown state body?
“What is this?” one Israeli social media user reacted. Another said “What is this? Have we become the US that we have private militias here?” another retorted tagging the Israeli police.
One user on Twitter claimed that they are ‘probably’ police officers, and if they are, then they are violating their duty to identify as such. The user, a journalist, later said that the police identified them as being law enforcement officers, ‘a detective force from Jaffa’, sent to maintain the peace and that the patches had been removed.
The lack of uniform is leading to a chaotic atmosphere where citizens can easily slip into these groups as volunteers. Who would be able to tell the difference between an actual policeman and a regular armed citizen wearing the same patch?
This is just one among countless images captured from occupied Palestinian territories and Israeli cities with Arab populations, showing armed Israelis walking freely in groups under the watch of the police or outside of their presence.
After the past week’s spiralling Israeli state violence against the Palestinians, there are claims that police allow, or encourage armed Israelis to form independent militias to support them.
An Israeli Zionist movement, MyIsrael, put up an ad on Twitter calling for the recruitment of volunteers in Lod who hold compulsory weapons licences.
Facing what may be burgeoning independent militias, however, is more chilling for Palestinians.
This scene wasn’t unfamiliar to the residents of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli occupied East Jerusalem. Since an Israeli court agreed to forced expulsions of Palestinian families from the neighbourhood, armed settlers have been appearing in front of its residents’ homes since early May.
“IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) is kidnapping our youth in Sheikh Jarrah, while settlers with actual guns are taunting us without consequences,” said Mohammed al Kurd, a Sheikh Jarrah resident. Half of Kurd’s house is already occupied by the settlers.
In a continuation of what appears to be a pattern, or state policy, armed Jewish men were allowed to intimidate Palestinians in occupied Palestine and mixed Israeli cities.
Armed settlers and Jewish radicals swarmed the city of Lod, also known as Lydd, and patrolled the streets while attacking Arab residents, unimpeded. Police were also present at the scene.
On Thursday, a group of settlers were captured marching freely, and armed, to attack Palestinians in Lod, a flashpoint of far-right Jewish mobs. They were in the company of Israeli armed forces.
A Palestinian resident was shot dead by a Jewish gunman only a day before amid a violent police crackdown on Arab residents in the city. A gunman opened fire on a group of Jews on Thursday, wounding one.
Over a tweet, Israeli police minister Amir Ohana called on Jewish citizens in Israel to arm themselves and encouraged gunning down Palestinians in the streets under the pretex of “self-defence” on the day of the Palestinian resident’s death.
Google translates a portion of the tweet in Hebrew as: “Even if there are things the public does not yet know, law-abiding citizens carrying weapons are a force multiplier in the hands of the authorities, for the immediate neutralisation of threat and danger.” The tweet was in defence of the Jewish gunman who killed a Palestinian resident, according to the minister, “in self-defence”.
He assured that law enforcement will treat those citizens who act in support of his call well, even releasing them from detention in return.
That call seemed to have been heeded in occupied Palestinian territories. What the residents call “armed lynch mobs” showed up in Sheikh Jarrah, as the police dispersed skunk water on Palestinians.
This time the resident, al Kurd, said there were hundreds of armed settlers who were ready to invade.