US warns its citizens to avoid Jaffa as protests rage

“Protests may turn violent to include vandalism, rock throwing, burning of tires, vehicles, and fire bombs,” the U.S. Embassy warned.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert Saturday warning its citizens to steer clear of Jaffa as Arab protests there continue.

“Protests continue this evening near the Clock Tower and throughout the city of Jaffa,” the alert said.

“Protests may turn violent to include vandalism, rock throwing, burning of tires, vehicles, and fire bombs. Embassy personnel have been advised to maintain situational awareness and avoid the area tonight.”

The Embassy urged citizens to keep a low profile, avoid all demonstrations, and be alert and aware of their surroundings.

The security alert follows days of protests and rioting against the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality’s plan to evacuate an ancient Muslim cemetery in a city-owned plot to make way for a homeless shelter. The protests have also been linked to the recent police shooting of Iyad Halak in Jerusalem, which some protesters have likened to the killing of George Floyd in the U.S.

On Saturday night, rioters burned several trash bins, trees, two cars, and a truck. On Friday, rioters used a Molotov cocktail to damage the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipal building.

Police arrested two minors, aged 13 and 15, on suspicion of setting fire to trash bins Saturday night. During the arrests, two men, aged 19 and 21, allegedly threw stones at the police and were also arrested.

A 23-year-old was arrested on suspicion of pointing a laser at a police helicopter in an attempt to blind the pilots during an earlier protest. Investigations are ongoing.

The protests turned violent on the evening of June 9 as hundreds of protesters clashed with police, threw rocks, started fires, and heavily damaged a city bus. A police source said that the rioters “acted with unbridled violence towards passersby.”