The arrests of siblings Muna and Muhammad el Kurd came a day after police detained a well-known Al Jazeera reporter who was covering a demonstration in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Israeli forces have released Palestinian social media activists Muna el Kurd and her brother Mohammed after detaining her in a raid and him for questioning.
The arrests of the twin siblings, 23, came on Sunday a day after police detained a well-known Al Jazeera reporter covering a demonstration in the neighbourhood. The reporter, Givara Budeiri, was held for four hours before she was released and sent to a hospital to treat a broken hand.
It was not clear how her hand was broken, but her boss blamed police mistreatment.
Muna el Kurd, who earned a degree in communications and journalism, belongs to one of 27 Palestinian families who face the threat of eviction in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
She is one of Palestinian women leading protests against Israel's forced evictions and threats of displacement in Sheikh Jarrah.
Earlier this year, heavy-handed police actions in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of occupied East Jerusalem fuelled weeks of unrest that helped spark an 11-day Israeli aggression.
Those tensions are simmering again — and could flare anew if Israeli ultranationalists follow through on plans to march on Thursday through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.
Israeli police were expected to hold consultations on whether the parade, which was originally set to take place when Israeli aggression erupted on May 10, would be allowed to proceed.
Renewed violence could complicate the task of embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political opponents, who formed a fragile and disparate coalition last week, of passing a parliamentary vote of confidence required to replace him and take office. A close ally of Netanyahu oversees the police.
Palestinians say they are victims of a discriminatory system
In Sheikh Jarrah, Jewish settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods just outside the walls of the Old City. The area is one of the most sensitive parts of occupied East Jerusalem, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised internationally.
Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Settler groups and Israeli officials say the Sheikh Jarrah dispute is merely about real estate. But Palestinians say they are victims of a discriminatory system. The settlers are using a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim formerly Jewish properties lost during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict.
'They want to silence us'
The el Kurd family in Sheikh Jarrah has been at the forefront of months of protests against the planned evictions.
Early Sunday, police took Muna el Kurd, 23, from her home.
Her father, Nabil el Kurd, said police “stormed the house in large numbers and in a barbaric manner.”
“I was sleeping, and I found them in my bedroom,” he said. Police then searched the house and arrested his daughter. Video posted on social media showed her being taken away 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 also searched for her brother, Muhammad, but he was not there. Later, he turned himself in to Jerusalem police.
The siblings' lawyer, Nasser Odeh, told journalists outside the police station that his clients were accused of “disturbing public security and participation in nationalistic riots.”
On Sunday evening, Muna el Kurd was released. But before she was freed, police hurled stun grenades to disperse the crowd outside the station.
Later on Sunday, Muna posted on Instagram that her brother had been released as well.
In less than 30 days, the Israeli army and police will forcibly drag my family, my 76 yr old father, 126 of our neighbors, & throw us onto the streets. They’ll hand our home-our memories, the jasmine trees-to Israeli settlers.. I’m heartbroken to say the least #SaveSheikhJarrah— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) April 1, 2021
Al Jazeera's Budeiri suffers bruises on her body
The arrests came a day after Al Jazeera's Budeiri, wearing a protective vest marked “press,” was dragged away by police at a protest in Sheikh Jarrah.
According to witnesses, police asked Budeiri for identification. Colleagues said police did not allow her to return to her car to retrieve her government-issued press card. Instead, they said she was surrounded by police, handcuffed and dragged into a vehicle with darkened windows.
In video footage posted online, Budeiri can be seen in handcuffs, while clutching her notebook and shouting, “Don’t touch, enough, enough.”
Israeli police said entrance to the neighbourhood is limited due to the tense situation, and only accredited journalists are allowed in. They said that when Budeiri was unable to provide her press pass, police “removed her.” They added that Budeiri was arrested after becoming hostile and pushing an officer.
“The Israel Police will allow the freedom of press coverage, provided that these are done in accordance (with) the law while maintaining public order," according to a statement.
The statement did not reference her broken hand.
Budeiri was held for four hours before she was released and sent to the hospital, said Walid Omary, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Al Jazeera. In addition to the broken hand, Omary said Budeiri also suffered bruises on her body. He said her cameraman’s video camera was also heavily damaged by police.
As part of her release, Budeiri is banned from returning to the neighbourhood for 15 days, Omary said.
“They are attacking the journalists in East Jerusalem be cause they don’t want them to continue covering what’s happening inside Sheikh Jarrah," he said.
This is the full video of Al Jazeera journalist Givara Budeiri being assaulted and arrested by Israeli police… as our viewers and I saw it being played out on-air.— Kamahl Santamaria (@KamahlAJE) June 5, 2021
It is extraordinary. It is unacceptable. It demands answers.#JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/iYIS9cirCG
The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organisations, said the treatment of Budeiri was “the latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police” against the media in recent weeks. It said journalists have been hit by stun grenades, tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and putrid-smelling water.
"We call on police to punish the officers who needlessly injured an experienced journalist and broke professional equipment. And once again, we urge police to uphold Israel’s pledges to respect freedom of the press and to allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of injury and intimidation," the FPA said.
Al Jazeera’s acting director general, Mostefa Souag, 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 Associated Press' office.
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 and has called for an independent investigation.
Israel wounds ten Palestinians
Palestinian Red Crescent said on Sunday that ten Palestinians wounded when Israeli security forces intervened during protests in support of Palestinian activists in the occupied East Jerusalem.
There was no comment from Israeli police on the report.
In April, an Israeli court ruled to evict eight Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in favour of settlement groups, triggering tension across the Palestinian territories.
Israeli authorities, however, postponed giving a final decision on the eviction orders till December under Palestinian mass protests, including an 11-day fighting between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza, and international pressure.
Israeli aggression on Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa Mosque compound has fuelled weeks of unrest and helped spark an brutal bombardment of the besieged Gaza on May 10.
The Israeli attacks that killed 254 people in Gaza ended May 21. And 13 Israeli killed by rockets fired from the enclave in response.
The most imminent Jerusalem evictions are on hold, following the intervention by Israel’s attorney general, but the settlers' campaign continues.