Violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem: days of unrest
Attacks by militant Palestinians, military operations in the West Bank: before the election, the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is volatile.
BERLIN taz | A few weeks before the Israeli parliamentary elections, violence in the West Bank and in Jerusalem continues to escalate. For the second night in a row, serious riots broke out in various districts in East Jerusalem, which is predominantly inhabited by Arabs.
On Friday morning, police and rescue services in Israel reported 18 arrests and several injured. The situation could get worse over the weekend: Palestinian groups have called for a “Day of Rage” while far-right Israeli politicians and activists are using the escalation in their election campaigns.
This is how the extreme right-wing Israeli MPs visited Itamar Ben Gvir on Thursday, after clashes between Arab and Jewish residents, the predominantly Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah. He pulled out a pistol and demanded that police officers shoot at Arab stone throwers.
Ben Gvir is known for making anti-Arab sentiments socially acceptable in Israel. According to polls, his national-religious party alliance can expect a massive increase in votes in the parliamentary elections at the beginning of November and become one of the strongest factions in the Knesset.
Videos show clashes
On the Palestinian side, radical groups like the Hamas ruling in Gaza the frustration and existing rejection of Israel among young Palestinians to increasingly gain a foothold in the West Bank as well.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) under long-standing President Mahmoud Abbas has lost all credibility among the younger generation, partly because Abbas has been postponing long-overdue elections and eliminating political opponents with allegations of terrorism.
Videos of several have been shared on social media clashes between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. A 25-year-old Palestinian man was killed and a Palestinian emergency doctor seriously injured in a shootout between armed Palestinians and the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp on Friday morning, the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian Authority said. He eventually succumbed to his injuries. According to the Times of Israell he is said to have been part of the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The Israeli army confirmed the operation. Armed men attacked the security forces “with explosive devices and shots”. Three suspects were arrested during the action, including a member of the terrorist militia Hamas. In another operation in Jenin on Saturday, two Palestinian youths had been shot dead.
A Palestinian terrorist shot and killed a female soldier
The immediate trigger of the violence: On Saturday, a Palestinian attacker shot and killed an 18-year-old Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. The army then largely sealed off the neighborhood in search of the 22-year-old alleged perpetrator and arrested his family.
The Palestinian residents initially reacted with a general strike and demonstrations at the beginning of the week and criticized the massive restrictions on tens of thousands of residents in the district. Schools and shops remained closed on Wednesday, workers did not go to work.
On Tuesday, another Israeli soldier was shot dead in the West Bank near Nablus while escorting a demonstration by Israeli settlers. During the week, protests by Palestinians against the lockdown at Shuafat camp spread to other neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians attacked security forces with incendiary devices, firecrackers and stones on Thursday night. Omer Barlev, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, then ordered restrictions at the Shuafat checkpoint to be eased on Thursday.
Tension from the upcoming election
Tensions in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have steadily increased for months. At the beginning of the year, a series of terrorist attacks killed at least 20 Jewish Israelis. The Israeli security forces then launched a large-scale anti-terrorist operation in the occupied West Bank. Since the beginning of the year, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, including children.
In view of the increasing violence, the dwindling influence of the PA and the growing frustration in the Palestinian population, there are increasing concerns about a further escalation or even a third intifada.
In addition to the upcoming parliamentary elections, the celebrations for the Jewish Sukkot festival are currently causing increased tension. Many devout Jews visit Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the celebrations. The Israeli police mobilized four additional units on Friday morning. Prime Minister Jair Lapid after a meeting with security officials, stressed that Israel was “determined” to allow the Sukkot celebrations to take place and to take action against “terror and violent riots”.