Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Intifada No One Wants, Rash Of Palestinian Stabbing Attempts Continues Over Weekend

A spate of attempted terrorist attacks took place over the weekend in Jerusalem and the West Bank, wounding two Israelis.

A teenager from the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber was shot dead in the nearby Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on Saturday morning when he tried to stab Border Police officers, police said.

Police subsequently identified the terrorist as Muataz Awisat, 16.

The attack took place shortly after a concerned resident notified police there was a suspicious- looking Arab teenager on Rav Hahovel Street during the midmorning hours.

When Border Police officers arrived moments later and asked to search the suspect, he withdrew a large kitchen knife from his pocket and tried to stab them; one of the officers shot him dead.

None of the officers was wounded.

Armon Hanatziv resident Jeff Gross said he was walking to his synagogue with his wife and daughter when the shots were fired.

“I was walking to shul with my wife and nine-year-old daughter when we heard the shots,” Gross said moments after the attack.

“I ran ahead and saw border policemen surrounding the body of the Palestinian. I went back to my family and we took a different route. I don’t need my daughter to see that.”

The attempted stabbing comes four days after two Jews were shot and stabbed to death, and three others seriously wounded, on an Egged bus by two terrorists from the adjoining Arab neighborhood, whose access has since been regulated by police checkpoints.

Jerusalem police said on Saturday night that a terrorist at the Kalandiya checkpoint, between the capital and Ramallah, pulled a knife and tried to stab a police officer, but was unable to penetrate the officer’s bulletproof vest.

Officers then opened fire on the attacker, hitting him in the lower body. A bomb squad officer then approached the wounded attacker, who pulled out another knife and tried to stab him. A Border Police officer then opened fire, hitting the attacker and subduing him.

Police remain on heightened alert throughout the capital, as 300 soldiers are to be dispatched on Sunday to secure the city’s public transportation system.

Also on Saturday, a Palestinian attempted to stab an Israeli civilian in Hebron. The civilian produced a firearm and shot his attacker dead.

Later on Saturday, a terrorist stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier at a police checkpoint in the city. A second soldier shot and critically wounded the Palestinian attacker.

The soldier was admitted to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem with knife wounds to his upper body.

In an attempted stabbing by a woman terrorist in Hebron on Saturday, the Border Police said the attacker approached woman officer “M.” at the checkpost outside her base and asked for directions.

In Hebron on Friday, a Palestinian terrorist disguised as a photojournalist stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier at the Zayit junction outside Kiryat Arba, before he was shot dead by a second soldier.

During the incident, the attacker approached the soldier wearing a brightly colored vest printed with the word “Press” in English and carrying a camera. He suddenly produced a knife and lunged at the soldier, stabbing him, before being shot.

The West Bank saw several riots during the weekend.

On Saturday, around 200 Palestinians clashed with the IDF at the Ayosh junction, between Ramallah and Beit El. They threw gas grenades and rolled burning tires at soldiers, who responded with crowd control measures and fired low-caliber rifle rounds. The Red Crescent evacuated a number of rioters who were wounded in the clash.

Some 150 Palestinians threw rocks and a pipe bomb at soldiers at the Prigat junction, south of Nablus. The IDF fired low-caliber rounds, wounding a number of rioters.

Around 80 Palestinians hurled firebombs and homemade grenades at Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem on Friday. Soldiers responded by firing low-caliber rounds, resulting in a number of rioters sustaining light injuries.

Analysis: The unrest in Israel is the intifada no one wants - Arab-Israeli Conflict

 Since the beginning of the latest spate of violence here, Israelis and Palestinians have been at a loss about what to call this amorphous, scary thing.

The main question hovering above the public sphere is, “Is this finally the third intifada?”

The Jerusalem Press Club thinks so. It has invited members of the media to a Sunday talk on “The Third Intifada: Causes and Solutions.” The speaker is Dr. Shmuel Berkovits, author of The Battle for the Holy Places and How Terrible Is the Place: Holiness, Politics and Justice in Jerusalem and the Holy Places in Israel.

Hamas, the extreme Islamist faction that governs the Gaza Strip, has routinely been calling for “days of rage.”

Among some of the young Palestinians pushing for revolt, the name of choice has been the al-Aksa intifada, named for Jerusalem’s iconic, golden-domed al-Aksa mosque. This follows countless false reports that Israeli police or military forces have stormed the holy site with the intention of demolishing it to “Judaize” the city.

Some Israeli Jews, notably in the media, have taken to calling this the “intifada of knives,” a nod to the weapon of choice in the current tumult.

Tel Aviv was paralyzed Thursday morning not by another stabbing, but by a highway car chase following “two Palestinian suspects.” By midday, the two had been released and the city’s mayor, Ron Huldai, went on the radio to defend the “real intelligence” behind the stoppage. Tel Aviv is, after all, a city notoriously intolerant of traffic jams.

In the evening, a few dozen passengers headed to Paris from Ben Gurion Airport revolted on the tarmac and refused to board their flight when they learned their pilot was Czech. “We feel safe only with an Israeli!” a woman is heard screeching on a video taken at the scene.

For Israelis, years of hearing that the world is inclined against them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal and now a situation that feels impossible to control  seem to be taking a toll.

While it isn’t quite an intifada, people here are living amid swirling rumors and fears, and opportunistic baiting.

Israeli journalists devoted the evening news to bewailing the empty streets and empty restaurants. In real life, the bars in downtown Jerusalem were full if less exuberant than they normally would be on a Thursday night, the night the weekend starts.

Soldiers stood guard on corners in the Holy City, which is not usual, and they did not seem particularly alert. Some were on their phones, others chatted with civilian friends.

Whatever it is, this intifada-without-a-name does not yet seem to be catching on.

Thirty Israeli yeshiva students from Jerusalem were attacked early Sunday morning after visiting Joseph's Tomb compound in Nablus without IDF coordination. As a result, one of their vehicles was attacked and set ablaze, and several students suffered minor injuries. 

An initial investigation by security forces revealed that the students were instructed by their Rabbi to paint and restore the tomb. 

When they arrived, Palestinian Authority police arrived on the scene and subdued the students using batons and weapons.

Shortly afters, a group of Palestinians arrived and began attacking the students.

Most of the students escaped with minor injuries, while five of the students who were unable to escape, three minors and two adults, were eventually turned over to the army who had entered the compound to rescue them. The students were later arrested and interrogated by security forces for attempting to violate public order. 

"Israelis who wish to enter Area A [in the West Bank] can be life-threatening," the Judea and Samaria police said in a statement. "We have warned the public several times and and we warn them once again:  It is absolutely forbidden to enter these areas and is a breach of security."

Five Jewish Israelis were lightly wounded overnight Saturday in a confrontation with Palestinian police in Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. They were eventually extracted from the compound by IDF troops.

The five were among a larger group of about 30 people who entered the holy site without first obtaining security clearance, police said. Palestinian police then came to the Tomb and a confrontation with the worshipers quickly turned violent.

Palestinians pulled them from their cars and then torched one of the vehicles, reports said.

Police said the five worshipers suffered bruises all over their bodies, and were treated at the scene by army paramedics. They were set to be transferred to a hospital for thorough examination and then brought to court to be remanded. They are suspected of violating security regulations by going to the site without prior coordination.

The incident occurred only two days after a large group of Palestinians set fire to Joseph’s Tomb.

Israel police said that the group, students at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, claimed that they had entered the site in order to paint it after the fire there overnight Thursday.

The detainees told police that after they arrived at the shrine, Palestinian Authority Police officers confronted them and cocked their guns at them. The police officers also attacked them with clubs and sticks and hit them with the butts of their guns, they said.

The worshipers were members of the Breslov sect of Hasidic Judaism, reports said.

If Israelis thought for a moment that the recent wave of terror attacks was weakening and may even cease, Saturday’s events were a rude wake-up call. This is no run-of-the-mill spate of attacks, and sadly it may be a while before it subsides. It is no longer a “trickle” of sporadic attacks. Over 17 consecutive days, there has been only one day with no terror attacks or attempted attacks. The “trickle” isn’t stopping, and the Palestinians are calling it the Al Quds Intifada, or the Jerusalem Intifada.

Instead, we are witnessing a new kind of intifada characterized by lone wolves, young knife-wielding Palestinians. Most are from East Jerusalem, but over the past few days they’ve received a significant boost from the younger generation in Hebron.

Why has Hebron now rallied to the cause? There are a number of reasons. But first, we must point out that it would have been possible to find explanations had suicidal attackers emerged from other cities. The fact that attackers are not coming from other West Bank cities is surprising. Indeed, the markedly halfhearted commitment displayed by West Bank Palestinians in this semi-intifada is one of the few positive trends that one can point to amid the events of the last few weeks.
Like Jerusalem, Hebron is an easy place to carry out attacks. The terrorists do not need to leave a West Bank town or village and infiltrate Israel through checkpoints in order to find victims. Both are mixed cities, and in Hebron, in Area 2H — as it is designated in the Oslo Accords — Palestinians and Israelis live side by side and intermix practically 24 hours a day.

Hebron has been known as a Hamas stronghold for dozens of years, and despite massive Israeli efforts in security and intelligence, and the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to intercept attackers coming from there (including arrests of Hebron residents last week), there is no shortage of extremists who are prepared to die in order to kill Jews.

The problem, as ever, is that we are living on borrowed time. Abbas’s capacity to stem protests, including some by activists in his Fatah party, isn’t assured for long. Eventually, the members of Fatah and its violent Tanzim movement will join the fray.

Until now, this has been an intifada under at least partial control, but without some kind of diplomatic initiative or an effort to prevent escalation, it is only a matter of time before Israelis and Palestinians pass the point of no return.

The diplomatic initiatives that have already been pitched are unlikely to help. A French proposal to deploy international monitors at the Temple Mount is unlikely to pass muster at the UN’s Security Council. A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe probably won’t make any real difference either.
Since an Arab-Palestinian-Israeli summit is still not on the horizon, for the time being, Israelis don’t have much choice but to hunker down, prepare for more attacks, and hope things won’t spiral utterly out of control.

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