A Palestinian boy walks past a building that Israeli settlers purchased on October 21, 2014 in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan
A Palestinian boy walks past a building that Israeli settlers purchased on October 21, 2014 in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP
A Palestinian boy walks past a building that Israeli settlers purchased on October 21, 2014 in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan
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Jonah Mandel, AFP
Last updated: October 22, 2014

Israel police plan new unit to fight Jerusalem unrest

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Israel's top police officer on Tuesday pledged a new task force to combat Jerusalem unrest, after Palestinians hurled Molotov cocktails at an apartment taken over by Jewish settlers.

"We are moving ahead with a comprehensive programme incorporating the latest technology, intelligence gathering and the establishment of a new police unit for dealing with incidents," Commissioner Yohanan Danino told officers.

"Jerusalem residents are entitled to a high level of personal security...and the issue is at the top of Israel Police's priorities," he said in remarks carried on the force's official Twitter feed.

No one was injured in the incident late Monday in the flashpoint east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, where a group of Palestinians fired flares and threw petrol bombs at the building, a police statement said.

No serious damage was caused and no arrests were made.

The building was one of two structures housing 10 apartments that were taken over by Jewish settlers before dawn on Monday, sparking fierce local opposition.

Such takeovers have also been strongly condemned by the international community.

Silwan is a densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood that flanks the southern walls of Jerusalem's Old City and has been the scene of frequent clashes involving a small group of hardcore settlers, the Israeli police and stone-throwing youths.

In addition, since July's killing of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists and a bloody 50-day Israeli military offensive in Gaza that ended on August 26, Palestinians youths have been almost constantly on the streets throughout Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem throwing stones and petrol bombs at police, motorists and public transport.

There has also been a spate of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police over Jewish visits to Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound -- Islam's third holiest site.

The site is also revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temple, considered Judaism's holiest place.

- 'Riots on Temple Mount' -

Danino on Tuesday vowed to restore order.

"We cannot ignore public disorder incidents; stone-throwing, attacks with fireworks, throwing of petrol bombs, which characterise riots on Temple Mount and other areas in the city and its surroundings," he said, using the Hebrew term for the Al-Aqsa compound.

The Silwan clashes erupted three weeks ago when settlers moved into more than 25 apartments in the area that they claimed to have purchased.

Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli organisation aiming to increase the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, said the acquisitions would double the number of Jews living in that part of Silwan, known in Hebrew as Kfar Shiloach.

The group claims that particular area was inhabited by Jews from Yemen in the late 19th century.

Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, in a move never recognised by the international community. Some 200,000 Israelis live there alongside about 300,000 Palestinians.

Israel regards the entire city as its "undivided capital" and does not see construction or the purchase of houses in the eastern sector as settlement activity.

While the Israeli government is behind major construction efforts in the area, it says it has no say over private real-estate deals in east Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, President Reuven Rivlin spoke out against such deals conducted between Arab sellers and extreme rightwing groups.

"Jerusalem cannot be a city in which building is done in secret or where moving into apartments is done in the dead of night," he said on Sunday.

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