Israel‘s Police released on Sunday night, June 6, Muna Al-Kurd, a prominent Palestinian activist and spokesperson for the residents of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem facing eviction from their homes.
Prior to Muna’s release, several Palestinian activists gathered outside the police station on Salah ad-Din Street where she and her brother Mohammad were being held to protest their detention. There Israeli police attacked the Jerusalemite activists and residents while the latter were holding a press conference in front of the police station. Many of the activists were injured as cops attacked the gathering with stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas, causing a number to suffer difficulty in breathing. Among those injured was Al-Jazeera correspondent Najwan Samri who was taken to hospital following the attack.
The arrests of Muna and Mohammad Al-Kurd would not deter the Palestinians from continuing the campaign to resist the planned eviction, said Ahmed Mansour, a friend of the Al-Kurd family.
Earlier on Sunday, Muna and her brother, Mohammad, vocal advocates against the planned evictions of 13 Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, were detained along with two other East Jerusalem activists. Over the past few weeks, the two have become the voices of the Arab families facing eviction orders from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. They have posted several videos on social-media platforms that documented protests and clashes between Palestinian activists and the police. Muna Al-Kurd has 1.2 million followers on Instagram.
Muna and her brother Mohammad are behind the social-media hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign, which has been trending for several weeks. Late last month, Muna delivered a speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council during a session on the grave human rights situation in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.
Palestinian Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi Hidmi stressed on Monday morning, June 7, that the escalating Israeli violence against Palestinians in East Jerusalem demands the urgent and immediate intervention by the international community which he called upon to take prompt action to remove all restrictions placed by Israeli occupation police in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood; cancel all ethnic cleansing decisions in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods; and ensure the release of all Palestinian detainees.
The Al-Kurd siblings were arrested one day after Muna was observed filming the detention of Al-Jazeera Arabic reporter Givara Budeiri by the police at Sheikh Jarrah. Budeiri was released a few hours later.
The Israel and the Palestinian Territories chapter of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) issued a statement condemning Budeiri’s arrest, accusing police of using excessive force when detaining her, resulting in her arm’s being broken. According to accounts from colleagues at the scene as well as videos captured by bystanders, Budeiri was arrested without justification. She was clearly identified as a journalist and wore protective equipment, including a vest labeled “Press”; police also refused to allow her to return to her car to show them her Israeli-issued press card, the FPA said. “This is the latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police in recent weeks against journalists who were clearly identified as such — including the use of stun grenades, tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and the spraying of skunk water,” the organization added, and called on the higher echelon’s of the police to punish officers involved in such violent attacks upon journalists and demanded that they be allowed to do their jobs free of intimidation
Most recently, two Palestinian journalists – Zeina Halawani and Wahbe Mikkieh – were assaulted and detained by Israeli forces in Sheikh Jarrah last week. The pair were held for five days before they were released on bail, and then were placed under house arrest for one month.
In a report published last year, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented 98 attacks by Israeli forces against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories. At least 40 were injured with a variety of weapons, including two who lost sight in one of their eyes as a result of their being injured, the report read. At least 14 were assaulted with ”evidence of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” while another 26 were arrested, it added.