Jerusalem police face down Palestinians who wanted to demonstrate after Friday prayers in East Jerusalem, October 13, 2023.


Mostafa alKharouf/Anadolou via Getty Images

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Palestinian Jerusalemites Caught between the Hammer and the Anvil

For Abu Tareq, 72, a Palestinian from the Old City of Jerusalem, the conditions that the city is experiencing these days are unprecedented. There are no people in the streets, no transportation, and no open stores. Israeli police are deployed everywhere in Jerusalem and wielding excessive force.

Abu Tareq told Jerusalem Story, “I was returning to my home in Bab Khan al-Zeit, and at Bab al-Amud, a large force of police stopped three young men and asked for their ID cards. After checking the cards, they asked them to pull down their pants to check if they were hiding anything. I tried to intervene, but one of the young men asked me to move away so that I would not be harmed by the police.” Abu Tareq explained that the police were looking for a provocation and they used my attempted intervention to start beating up this young man for no reason other than because he spoke to me. Abu Tareq would not take this without doing something. “I told the policeman in charge that this was not legal. “What are you doing to young men who did not do anything?” The policeman in charge replied, “I am the law. Here, we are at war!”1

“I am the law. Here, we are at war!”

Israeli policeman guarding Bab al-Amud in Jerusalem’s Old City, during a strip search of three Palestinian youths

Abu Tareq believes that the Israeli police and special forces in Jerusalem aim to frighten and intimidate young men and take revenge for Hamas’ invasion on October 7.

Abuse operations have become the talk of social media groups, where young Palestinians are talking about the beatings and insults that they are routinely subjected to when stopped by Israeli police, without any reason or justification.

Dr. Rami Nasrallah, head of the International Peace & Cooperation Center (IPCC) in Jerusalem, told Jerusalem Story: “The abuse of young people has become a phenomenon that has included all the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and the special units are beating every young man after asking him to raise his hands to the wall for inspection. In fact, shooting has become very easy, which resulted in the killing of two young men two days ago in Silwan due to police provocations, even though there were no demonstrations or marches at the time.”2 They were left on the ground without medical assistance; authorities also withheld their bodies.

Elsewhere, at the Qalandiya checkpoint, three Palestinians were killed by police on October 8.3

Nasrallah adds that these acts of revenge and obscenities, including threats of retaliation such as, “We will do to you what Hamas did in Gaza to Israelis,” reflect an escalating phenomenon of hatred and racism at the official level of the Israeli police.

Security webcam videos shared on social media showed heavily armed police raiding Palestinian shops, forcing shopkeepers to unlock their phones, and then arresting them if they found any messages of support for Gaza.4

In some Palestinian neighborhoods, Israelis were chanting “Death to Arabs” and placing Israeli flags on cars. Any driver who declined to accept a flag was told, “You also live in Israel, and it’s your duty to put up the flag,” and had their car beaten.


The three main checkpoints Palestinians are allowed to use to access Jerusalem are closed. No Palestinian is allowed to enter Jerusalem through these checkpoints, even those who live in the city and have permanent-resident status. This has left many people stranded, unable to reach homes, work, and schools.

No Palestinian is allowed to enter Jerusalem through these checkpoints, even those who live in the city and have permanent-resident status.

Israelis driving yellow-plated cars have full access to the city via the other checkpoints, such as Hizma, that are for their use.

The Israeli police are officially preventing the entry to the Old City of anyone who does not have an ID card bearing an address in the Old City. As well, authorities have imposed an age restriction on prayer at al-Aqsa. At first, it was limited to those over 50; on Thursday, October 12, this age was raised to 60. This meant that the attendance at Friday prayer, normally an occasion that brings tens of thousands to the mosque, was reduced to just 5,000.

Only Muslims aged over 60 were allowed to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Only Muslims aged over 60 were allowed to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, October 13, 2023.


Muath al-Khatib for Jerusalem Story

Israeli police blockaded access to al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Israeli police blockaded access to al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, October 13, 2023.


Muath al-Khatib for Jerusalem Story

This restriction empties al-Aqsa Mosque of worshippers, says Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director of the Jordanian waqf charged with managing Islam’s third holiest mosque. Al-Khatib, who is present from seven in the morning in al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif, monitors the situation and notes that except for the waqf employees, there are no guards at al-Aqsa these days, especially in the morning. He added in an interview with Jerusalem Story: “I pray to God that there would be rational people in the region who will work to remove the specter of religious war from the region, and this is what I fear the most.”5

Al-Khatib reminds everyone that al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic mosque holy to more than two billion Muslims around the world, insisting that “all Israeli provocations and violations against the mosque must stop, and peace must prevail.”

The waqf official again repeated the call for rational leaders to intervene to stop this war. “This is a war of destruction that must be stopped immediately, because its impact will be dangerous in the long term, especially on al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif.”

Internal blockades

As we enter the second week of the war, the city is moving to blockade Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem with huge cement boulders, imposing yet another layer of closure, this one internal closure. The boulders have been readied at the entrances to Palestinian neighborhoods, but are not yet positioned across the roads. 

Police prepared to barricade Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem on October 15, 2023.

Police prepared to barricade Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem on October 15, 2023.


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Palestinians on the ground report that they are very concerned that some kind of “permanent” closure between East Jerusalem and the West Bank will be a lasting outcome, even for those with Israeli permanent-status IDs who have the right to move freely.

The city is moving to blockade Palestinian neighborhoods with huge cement boulders.

As the war enters its second week, almost no one is on the streets, and there is no transportation. The city has come to a standstill.

The municipality also stopped collecting garbage in Palestinian neighborhoods, and so the garbage is overflowing.

The municipality of Jerusalem stopped regular trash collection in Palestinian neighborhoods, as shown here October 13, 2028.

Garbage began overflowing in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem after the municipality stopped collecting it during the war in Gaza, shown here on October 13, 2023.


Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Economic Woes

Physical abuse of Palestinians is not the only concern of Jerusalemites. As well as being subjective to multilayered hermetic closures, East Jerusalem began observing a general strike on October 8; many shops remain closed, although those selling basic foodstuffs and vegetables are open. But food supplies, especially meat and vegetables, are in increasingly short supply. The economic and living conditions are deteriorating day by day.

The Old City was on general strike, October 9, 2023.

The Old City was on general strike, October 9, 2023. Even in the second week of the war, most shops other than food necessities remained closed.


Muath al-Khatib for Jerusalem Story

Ibrahim Saeed, 32, from the Silwan neighborhood, traveled between the city’s various neighborhoods seeking food for his family. He told Jerusalem Story that he went from Beit Hanina in the north to Jabal Mukabbir in the south, seeking to buy a kilo of meat and chicken. Not only was he unable to find it in many stores, but when he did, the prices were outrageous.

A Palestinian worker in a large East Jerusalem store selling food supplies who requested that his name not be mentioned said that the store owner asked the workers there to pull down all the price signs on the goods and on the shelves to remove them, because “People will buy regardless of the price.”

For its part, the Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jerusalem appealed to merchants and food store owners not to exploit the current conditions by raising prices to alleviate the suffering of Jerusalemites who are already suffering from difficult economic conditions.

Hijazi al-Risheq, secretary of the chamber, told Jerusalem Story that since the beginning of Hamas’s Operation al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, commercial activity has been paralyzed in the city of Jerusalem in general and the Old City in particular. “The main reason for this paralysis is due to the Israeli measures that were taken to close internal crossings and external borders. This isolated the city of Jerusalem from the rest of the villages and surrounding communities, and greatly reduced purchasing power.”6

The threats to launch a comprehensive regional war and the Israeli society’s huge demands for food supplies has led to the complete paralysis of the Palestinian commercial sector, because of the run on the food and vegetable stores sector, which constitutes 9 percent of the shops in the city.

Al-Risheq added: “This situation has led to overcrowding and increased demand for food supplies, and unfortunately, some sick merchants used this to raise the prices of these goods, especially vegetables, fruits, eggs, and chicken, and of course without any oversight or accountability. All this has meant that commercial activity in Jerusalem has been completely paralyzed, and most stores are closed.”

Public Safety

Initially, the rockets were flying over the skies of Jerusalem, activating continuous air raid sirens. However, the city has not built shelters in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Moreover, all the public safety support the city provides, such as daily messages with guidelines on how to stay safe when rockets fly and where to seek shelter, are in Hebrew, a language that many Palestinian Jerusalemites do not speak.

Health Care

The neighborhoods outside the wall such as Kufr ‘Aqab and Shu‘fat refugee camp are left without access to adequate health care, as most major health care facilities that serve the surrounding area are in Jerusalem. 

The meager facilities available in those neighborhoods are overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Some Palestinians reported being turned away from major Israeli hospitals in the city.

Short Take Only in Jerusalem

If Jerusalem is closed to you, what else cannot be accessed? 


East Jerusalem schools remain closed; their classes are now all virtual, including Al-Quds University.

Palestinians who study in Israeli universities in Jerusalem are being subjected to extreme harassment, particularly if they express any support for Palestinian human rights or Hamas. Some are even being expelled for their social media posts.

Public Life

Because of the war, the Israeli government also decided to postpone the municipal elections, scheduled for October 31 throughout the country including Jerusalem, for three months.

A Bleak and Ominous Future

Nasrallah notes that Palestinian advocates of integration and Israelization have today become dreamers and will be completely marginalized due to hatred and revenge among Israelis against everyone who is Arab, regardless of their legal status. “At checkpoints, even Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are treated as enemies and are abused in a manner similar to workers in Israel from Gaza who were deported to the West Bank.”

Commenting on the status of Palestinians in general and Jerusalemites in particular, the elder Abu Tariq referred to an Arabic proverb, “al-Kharij mafqud wa-l-‘a’id mawlud,” an expression that translates to, “What’s gone is gone, and what returns is like a newborn.” This proverb is often used to emphasize the idea that when something is lost or gone, it is impossible to retrieve it in its original state, but when something comes back, it is as if it’s entirely new or fresh.

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Interview with Abu Tareq by the Jerusalem Story Team, October 9, 2023. All subsequent quotations from Abu Tareq in this story are from this interview.


Interview with Rami Nasrallah by the Jerusalem Story Team, October 9, 2023. All subsequent quotations from Nasrallah in this story are from this interview.


Abeer Salman and Karim Khader, “6 Palestinians Killed Sunday in the West Bank by Israeli Fire, Health Officials Say,” CNN, October 8, 2023.


Younis Tirawi (@ytirawi), “Sour Baher, East Jerusalem,” Twitter, October 15, 2023, 5:13 p.m.


Interview with Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib by the Jerusalem Story Team, October 9, 2023. All subsequent quotations from al-Khatib in this story are from this interview.


Interview with Hijazi al-Risheq by the Jerusalem Story Team, October 9, 2023. All subsequent quotations from al-Risheq in this story are from this interview.

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