JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian shops and businesses in east Jerusalem shut down on Wednesday to protest Israeli police raids in the area that have prompted fierce clashes between police and Palestinian protesters.
Israeli police have been operating in the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem’s eastern sector to hunt for a suspect in a deadly shooting attack at a checkpoint on Sunday that killed a soldier.
Police have been combing Shuafat, a hardscrabble camp for Palestinian refugees on the outskirts of Jerusalem, for the suspect, setting up checkpoints and deploying groups of armed officers to question residents. The heavy police presence has sparked intense clashes with local youth. The checkpoints have choked off entry and exit points out of the area, disturbing daily life for residents.
The general strike was called to protest the crackdown. Schools and shops closed across east Jerusalem, including in the Old City, whose colorful stores catering to tourists and locals alike are usually abuzz with activity.
“Showing solidarity with Shuafat means more than a day’s income,” said Anan Sabah, a butcher in the Old City. “The camp has been closed and surrounded for days. We are closed to say that’s collective punishment.”
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are at a high, especially in Jerusalem, where thousands of Jewish worshippers are flocking to the flashpoint city to mark the weeklong Sukkot holiday.
Fueling the tensions are monthslong, nightly raids conducted by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank, which began after a spate of attacks against Israelis earlier this year. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the violence, making this year the deadliest since 2015. Most of those killed have been militants, according to Israel, but some local youth protesting the raids as well as civilians have also been killed in the violence.
The raids have sparked a series of shooting attacks in recent weeks against Israelis in the West Bank, including one near the Palestinian city of Nablus Tuesday that killed an Israeli soldier.
The Israeli military said it had closed some roads leading in and out of the city and set up roadblocks in its search for the gunmen. Despite the tensions, it said it would still allow and escort Jewish worshippers to visit a Jewish shrine in Nablus that has been a flashpoint for violence.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.