Israeli police detained and later released prominent twin activists on Sunday who have been campaigning on social media against a move to evict a group of Palestinian families from an east Jerusalem neighbourhood.
Officers arrested Muna el-Kurd, 23, and left a summons for her twin brother, Muhammad, 23, at their home in Sheikh Jarrah, a part of the city that has become a flashpoint for protests in recent weeks. Muhammad later turned himself in.
Before Muna was freed, police briefly clashed with a crowd outside the station, throwing stun grenades.
As many as eight families are waiting for a Supreme Court appeal ruling on whether they will need to leave the area so that Jewish settlers can move in.
Father accuses Israeli police of trying to silence protests
Nabil el-Kurd, the pair’s father, said police “stormed the house in large numbers and in a barbaric manner.”
“The reason for the arrest is that we say that we will not leave our homes, and they do not want anyone to express his opinion, they do not want anyone to tell the truth,” he said. “They want to silence us.”
She was led away in handcuffs, according to footage released on social media.
A spokesperson for the Israeli police, without naming Muna el-Kurd, confirmed the arrest of a 23-year-old suspect on “suspicion of participating in riots.”
The el-Kurd twins, whose family is one of those that face losing their home, have been leading an active protest movement on the streets and on social media.
Muna rose to prominence after a video of her challenging a group of Jewish settlers went viral.
The planned evictions from Sheikh Jarrah have fuelled weeks of unrest in the holy city, which is home to key religious sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
It helped spark a conflict between Israel and Hamas after the Islamist militant group fired several rockets toward Jerusalem last month.
Press freedom groups slam detention of Al-Jazeera reporter
The confirmed arrest of Muna el-Kurd comes after authorities released a veteran Al-Jazeera correspondent, Givara Budeiri.
Border police arrested her on Saturday and held her for four hours, according to Walid Omary, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Al-Jazeera.
Budeiri received treatment in hospital for a broken hand and also suffered bruises to her body.
A video posted online shows her being detained and handcuffed, despite wearing body armour clearly marked “press.”
Clutching her notebook, she is heard shouting, “Don’t touch, enough, enough.”
Israeli police said she was detained after she was asked for identification, refused, and pushed a police officer.
International Press Institute executive director Barbara Trionfi slammed Budeiri’s arrest as “the latest flagrant violation of press freedom and journalist safety by Israeli forces.”
“The extended detention of journalists and the many attacks against the media that we have witnessed in the past weeks appear to be part of an ongoing effort by Israel to suppress independent coverage, which is greatly concerning and in breach of international treaties,” she said in a statement.
Sabrina Bennoui, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders, another media freedom watchdog, called her detention “a clear violation of press freedom.”
“This journalist was clearly recognisable as she was wearing a press vest, and there is a clear will from the Israeli authorities to prevent journalists from doing their job and from reporting on the ground,” she said.
Media still reeling from bombed Gaza building
Human rights groups criticised Israel when it destroyed the high-rise building in Gaza that housed several media organisations on May 15.
Israel alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating from the building, although officials are yet to provide any evidence for those claims.
The 11-day conflict, which ended with a ceasefire brokered by Egyptian intelligence officials, left more than 250 people dead.
Featured image: Prominent Palestinian activist Muna El-Kurd hugs a friend at the courtyard of her house in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, June 6, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad