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Israel cracks down on shop owners in Jerusalem's Old City

Dec. 23, 2014 1:58 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 5, 2015 3:07 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian shop owners say Israel's Jerusalem municipality has recently launched a crackdown on businesses in East Jerusalem's Old City, issuing heavy fines to business owners and harassing workers.

Imad al-Shawish, who owns a restaurant in the historic walled city, told Ma'an that municipality officers raided his business on Monday and assaulted workers with iron rods.

"They hurled a stun grenade and a tear gas canister inside the restaurant without showing an inspection warrant," he said, adding that officers detained his business partner Salah al-Shawish and fined him 5,000 shekels ($1,278) without providing a reason.

Coffee shop owner Mousa Siyam said that Israeli forces raided his shop in the al-Qirmi neighborhood and threatened to destroy the main door.

They confiscated a TV and satellite receiver and fined Siyam 18,000 shekels ($4,600) which must be paid in 10 days.

He was also fined an extra 1,000 shekels ($255) because someone was smoking in the non-smoking area.

Other business owners told Ma'an anonymously that the crackdown is targeting shops who pay regular taxes to the municipality, with raids taking place at least three times a week by Israeli forces and municipality officers.

On Monday, shop owners went on strike in protest at the clampdown and protested in front of an Israeli police station near Jaffa Gate.

Palestinians in East Jerusalem have long complained that high taxes levied by the municipality make it nearly impossible to run profitable businesses.

Over 75 percent of Palestinians, and 82 percent of children, live below the poverty line in East Jerusalem, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

There are huge discrepancies between East and West Jerusalem in terms of education, health, water access, and planning, while Israel has also revoked the residency of 14,309 Palestinians since occupying the city in 1967, with 106 in 2013 alone.

Despite forming nearly half of the city's population, only 10 percent of Jerusalem's municipal budget is spent on Palestinians.

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