Issawiya - The northern entrance leading to the East Jerusalem village of Issawiya is blocked with about a dozen security vehicles filled with paramilitary border police ready to invade the village where clashes between protesting Palestinians and Israeli security forces erupt on a daily basis.
It was here the recent summoning of a four-year-old Palestinian boy for questioning by the Israeli police for allegedly throwing stones has made international headlines.
The Israelis accuse the Palestinians of rioting and carrying out stoning attacks on Israeli cars and police, while the Palestinians say they are being subjected to collective and petty punishment with the security forces provoking the clashes.
NGO researchers and activists assert the daily raids and petty fines for minor issues are part of a plan by the Israeli authorities to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem to create a Jewish majority in the city so that it can remain united under Israeli control eternally – a plan they say has been emboldened by US President Donald Trump who has recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital despite this being contrary to international law.
From the large balcony of their apartment on a high rise-building, with sweeping views of the village around them and stretching all the way to Jericho, the Ardi* family watches developments with trepidation, saying a raid is imminent.
Ten-year-old Sundus* is afraid. She, together with her mother, siblings and several other family members, are visiting their family in Issawiya from the US, where they live, as part of their annual vacation back to their homeland.
They request anonymity as they are dependent on the Israeli border authorities for entering the country each year.
“I’m too scared to go outside because the police are in the street always and they are scary with their guns. I love coming to see my cousins but I feel safer back home in the US,” Sundus tells the African News Agency (ANA).
Several weeks ago a young man was shot dead at close range after Israeli security forces fired live ammunition at him, saying their lives were endangered after he threw firecrackers at them - despite the security force members being dressed in full protective riot gear.
During the daily clashes which have been going on for months, dozens of Palestinians have been arrested, beaten up, with some requiring hospitalisation, and shot at, Abu Hummus, a political activist in the village tells ANA.
"Very young children have not been immune from the bloody confrontations and their aftermath," says Abu Hummus.
Last week the family of Muhammad Elian, 4, received a summons from the Israeli police for the boy to be brought into an East Jerusalem police station for questioning on the grounds that he threw stones at police.
The incident turned into a PR nightmare for the police when the family, together with a group of villagers, accompanied by journalists and television cameras, arrived at the police station with the youngster.
An embarrassed police officer, facing a barrage of questions, denied that the crying boy was wanted despite the family being in possession of the summons. Furthermore, despite the denials, a second Palestinian child from Issaiawya, Qais Firas Obaid, 6, was summoned for interrogation by the police less than 24 hours later.
The Issawiya children were relatively lucky in that they survived the police summons and the stone-throwing clashes physically unscathed.
Ten-year-old Abdel Rahman Shteiwi, from Kafr Qaddoum village in the northern Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, was not so lucky. He was shot in the head with an exploding bullet last month by Israeli soldiers after clashes - between young Palestinian men and Israeli soldiers over the expropriation of village land for the nearby Israeli settlement - had already subsided.
He recently pulled out of a coma but will most likely be brain damaged for life.
Meanwhile, the summoning of the Issawiya children has been slammed by Israeli rights group B’Tselem which said this was part of “an inseparable part of Israel’s policy in East Jerusalem pursued with the objective of securing a demographic majority for Jews in the city.”
“This goal is pursued in part by devoting resources and efforts to making life in the city unbearable for Palestinians, so that they will leave, ostensibly of their own will,” said B’Tselem.
Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with the Israeli organisation Ir Amim, further challenges the assertions that the Palestinians have started the clashes leading to the daily raids.
He says any stone attacks on Israeli cars or security forces would have made headlines in the Israeli media immediately.
“The campaign against Issawiya signals a new stage in Israel’s oppressive policies in East Jerusalem, and is part of the overall change in Israeli policy toward the Palestinians with the backing of the Trump administration.”
“Israel is pouring hundreds of millions of shekels into projects that will take over large parts of the Old City (in Jerusalem) and its surrounding neighborhoods, while fragmenting Palestinian territory and jeopardising the Palestinian population,” adds Tatarsky.
African News Agency (ANA)