Jerusalem24 – For two consecutive days and nights, the residents of Shuafat refugee camp and other Palestinian towns of occupied East Jerusalem have been subjected to a full siege by Israeli forces, a move the residents view as collective punishment after a shooting attack at Shuafat checkpoint killed an Israeli soldier.
Two other soldiers as well as a security guard were injured in the attack on Saturday night.
The Israeli military identified the perpetrator of the attack as 22-year-old Oday Tamimi from Shuafat.
“This is collective punishment forced on us,” Lawyer Medhat Deeba, a resident of Shuafat camp, tells Jerusalem24. “It is unprecedented, and it is forced on a place that is already lacking and where people are suffering from the bad existing infrastructure, bad education and medical facilities – and now this siege on top of it.”
Immediately after the attack on Saturday, the Israeli military announced three injuries including one described as critical. The soldier in question was pronounced dead after reaching the hospital, however her death was only formally announced Sunday morning.
Following the attack, large numbers of Israeli forces stormed the camp and intense confrontations broke out. Shuafat has been on lockdown since Saturday night, with all exits sealed by Israeli forces.
Eyewitness accounts and reports from the area show Israeli forces storming the streets and alleys of the camp, carrying out seemingly random raids and searches on buildings and residential houses.
As well as the full closure on Shuafat, Israeli forces imposed a closure on the Anata area of occupied East Jerusalem, which includes the communities of Ras Khamis, Ras Shehadeh, and Dahiyat Al-Salam, isolating them from the rest of Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Life on hold for those inside the camp
Deeba says around 150,000 Palestinians live in the areas closed by the Israeli army. “It includes commercial stores, factories, schools, intuitions, organizations – like any other city where people are living – and it has all been closed off and people prevented from reaching their destinations, even the schools that fall within the borders of the camp.”
Thousands of students are currently unable to reach their schools, and patients are prevented from reaching medical centers outside the camp. “There is a civilian who had a medical surgery scheduled for today who was also prevented from reaching the hospital.”
According to Deeba, the siege is part of a strategy by Israeli authorities’ to put pressure on the people of the camp after Israeli efforts have failed to catch the shooter. Deeba describes this as “a form of collective punishment that was forced on the residents of the camp.”
Deeba says that in addition to schoolchildren and people with medical needs, around 15,000 workers have been prevented from reaching their place of employment outside the camp for the past two days.
Deeba tells the story of one resident of the camp who works as a bus driver: “He needed to transport a group of students, and because his bus is parked close to the checkpoint, Israeli forces are preventing him from reaching the bus.”
A collective punishment for Palestinians in the camp – and also beyond
This siege is not only affecting Palestinians residing in the closed-off towns, but the communities outside relying on labor from Palestinian residents.
Deeba also says that a number of non-residents who were inside the camp for a visit or on business have been stranded since Saturday. Deeba also speaks of Palestinians who were inside the camp for personal affairs, like weddings, and other social gatherings.
Similarly, Shuafat residents who were outside the camp before the attack have been stuck on the other side, unable to return home.
“This collective punishment is not only affecting residents from the camp,” concludes Deeba. “It’s affecting all Palestinians.”