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October 9, 2015  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Violence, deaths spur fears of new intifada

JTA news service

An Israeli border policeman speaking to a Palestinian man near the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Oct. 7. 
Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images An Israeli border policeman speaking to a Palestinian man near the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Oct. 7. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images TEL AVIV – First it was clashes on the Temple Mount. Then a mother and father were shot before the eyes of their four children. Then two men were killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Since tensions began on Sept. 9, when Israel outlawed what it labeled a violent Islamist protest group from the Temple Mount, through the last week there have been waves of violence. The violence has been beyond what is normal and in recent days there have been daily reports of stabbings and other attacks, with the clashes spreading from Jerusalem to other cities in Israel.

As tensions were rising between Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the clashes could lead to an “intifada we don’t want.”

But with continued violence, fears of that happening are growing.

In early Ocober, thousands demonstrated in front of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house, demanding harsher security measures.

This prompted Netanyahu to say, “We are allowing our forces to take strong action against those who throw rocks and firebombs … We are not prepared to give immunity to any rioter, inciter or terrorist anywhere; therefore, there are no restrictions on the action of our security forces.”

In a three-day period early this month, four Israelis died in two terror attacks. On Oct. 1, militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party – shot and killed a young Jewish-Israeli husband and wife, Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin.

At the time, the Henkins, both in their early 30s, were driving through the northern West Bank to their home in the settlement of Neria. The couple’s four children, ages 4 months to 9 years, were in the car and witnessed the attack. They were lightly wounded and evacuated to a hospital.

Two days later, after Shabbat ended, a terrorist killed two men in the Old City of Jerusalem. Aharon Bennett, a 22-year-old Israeli soldier, was on the way to the Western Wall when he, his wife and their two sons were attacked. He was off duty and out of uniform. He died and his wife, Adele, 21, was seriously wounded and underwent emergency surgery. The second victim, Nehemia Lavi, 41, was stabbed and killed when he tried to fend off the terrorist with a gun. Police shot and killed the terrorist, a 19-year-old law student.

And the next day, a Jewish teenager was wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City. He was rushed to the hospital, and his attacker was killed by police.

In the unrest’s wake, Israeli leaders are talking tough and clamping down.

Israel heightened police presence in Jerusalem’s Old City. The government also passed a law that allows police to fire more quickly on Palestinian stone throwers, as well as increasing prison sentences and fines on the stone throwers.

Following the killing of the Henkins, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz wrote Friday on Facebook: “The government will take every necessary step to strengthen security and settlement, and the Palestinians will pay a heavy price. Whoever wants to cross a line will realize he is on the losing side.”

On Sunday, Oct. 4, Katz, who filled in for Netanyahu during the prime minister’s trip to the U.N., wrote on Facebook that he supports “heightened steps” against Palestinian terror following the attacks, including destroying the terrorists’ homes and placing a curfew on their neighborhoods.

The attacks even prompted harsh words from the normally conciliatory Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin. At a eulogy at Lavi’s funeral on Sunday, Oct. 4, Rivlin said Israel would find and punish terrorists.

“Our enemies know how to hurt us, but will not defeat us,” he said. “The fight against terrorism requires determination and inner fortitude. We will reach the killers of the innocent and pure, and we will reach their inciters and their dispatchers, and will deliver them a stinging blow.”

The week’s events dominated the news and got Israelis fearing the outbreak of broader Palestinian violence.

Israeli Knesset opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on Facebook that “we’re at the opening of a third intifada.” The first two violent Palestinian uprisings, in the late 1980s and early 2000s, left thousands of Israelis and Palestinians dead. A third wave would destroy the relative calm that Israelis have become accustomed to since the second intifada ended a decade ago.

But though violence has risen recently, it doesn›t mean a new intifada is imminent. Previous bouts raised concerns, only to wane after a few weeks. Last year saw a string of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem that did not spark wider unrest. And a wave of riots across the West Bank, prompted by the death of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli custody, led to the same fears in 2013, but the protests fizzled.

Israelis and Palestinians can only hope that this time will be similar.

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