HUFFINGTON POST

Violence Escalates In Jerusalem And West Bank

Many fear a third intifada is on its way.

Violence in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem showed no sign of abating as stabbings and violent protests continued throughout the weekend. Since Friday, seven Palestinians and two Israelis have died and several were severely injured, reported Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.

Here are the latest developments as leaders scramble to deal with the growing crisis.

 

"Thwarted knife attacks" led to nine deaths and caused many more injuries

Palestinian students hold a knife during an anti-Israel protest in the city of Khan Yunis in the Southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 18
Palestinian students hold a knife during an anti-Israel protest in the city of Khan Yunis in the Southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2015.

On Saturday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli border patrol officer at the Qalandia crossing in the West Bank, Reuters reported. He then wielded a second knife and attempted to stab a second policeman. The alleged attacker was shot and killed.

Two Palestinians attempted to harm more Israeli border police in East Jerusalem later that day. They were both shot dead.

In Hebron, an Israeli civilian shot and killed an 18-year-old Palestinian, identified as Fadel Mohammed al Qawasameh, according to Haaretz. The shooter claimed Qawasameh was trying to stab him, a claim Palestinian officials said was dubious.

Two more Palestinians attempted stabbings and were shot dead by Israeli police in Hebron over the weekend, Haaretz reported. 

 

One more Israeli and his attacker died in an attack on a bus station in Beersheba

On Sunday evening, an Arab assailant shot at people in Beersheba's central bus station, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding 10 police and civilians, according to The Associated Press. The man walked in with a knife and gun and started "shooting and stabbing people." Security then killed him.

An Eritrean man with no connection to the alleged assailant was mistakenly shot by security personnel and beaten up by a mob, the Jerusalem Post said. Israelis congregated outside of the bus station Sunday night, chanting "death to Arabs."

While most incidents in the past few days have been directed at members of Israeli police and border patrol, this shooting occurred in a crowded space, placing a higher number of people at risk.

These incidents bring up the death toll from street violence to more than 40 Palestinians and eight Israelis in recent weeks.

 

Social media played a major role in the stabbing streak

Unlike past outbreaks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, this recent uptick has been driven by knife attacks. The perpetrators are described as leaderless young people fueled by social media -- the term “knife intifada” has even appeared online.

"You don’t need something sophisticated. We’re talking about 15-year-old boys," Orit Perlov, an analyst of Arab social media at the Institute for National Security Studies, told The New York Times. "You just write the word ‘it’an,’ stab in Arabic, and then whoever has a knife in his house and wants to go, that’s it.”

Many Palestinians are angered by what they perceive as Israeli brutality. "They are smart and clever," one stabber's relative told The Guardian. "They can’t sustain the humiliation. They think: if you are going to kill us in the end, we should attack first."

Those who stab Israelis and then get killed are glorified; it's another type of suicide attack, Daniel Nisman, president of the Levantine Group, an Israeli security analysis firm, told the Times.

 

Israel moved forward with major security measures

A Palestinian protester kicks burning tires during fierce clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces
A Palestinian protester kicks burning tires during fierce clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces near the Beit El settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah in the West Bank, Oct. 14, 2015.

Four Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, voted Sunday to temporarily ban all Arab workers from their schools.

“Entrance to cleaning and maintenance workers will be forbidden during school hours,” the Hod Hasharon municipality wrote on its website.

Israel's Education Ministry has yet to comment, but the Interior Ministry released a statement calling for municipalities to “continue to act with respect and equality towards all their workers, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or gender.”

Israeli police were also granted greater stop-and-frisk powers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that these measures were about "preserving the status quo, we will continue to do so."

Israeli security has found it difficult to prevent stabbings due to the unpredictable nature of the attacks, whose perpetrators act as lone wolves. "Palestinians who carry out attacks are no longer scared of the security forces," Lior Akerman, a former Israeli brigadier general, wrote in the Jerusalem Post. 

 

Kerry announced he would meet with Netanyahu and Abbas

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet with Netanyahu in Germany this week and then will travel to the Middle East for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The tone of the meeting with Abbas will be set by how Kerry's conversation with Netanyahu unfolds, a senior Abbas official told Haaretz.

Kerry played the role of mediator during lengthy peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestianians that collapsed in 2014.

The prospects for peace have grown increasingly bleak. Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly last month that he will no longer be bound by the 1993 Oslo accords, the de facto framework for peace talks.

Whether Kerry will preside over a renewed push for a two-state solution is unclear.

 

Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine

The tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph, a Jewish holy site in the Palestinian city of Nablus, went up in flames Friday when about 100 Palestinian attackers set fire to the shrine. Over Saturday night, five Jewish worshippers entered the shrine and became involved in a confrontation with Palestinian police. Soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces found the worshippers badly bruised afterwards.

For the first time in this spate of violence, Abbas explicitly condemned an attack on Palestinian soil. He "decided to immediately form an investigative commission to probe this irresponsible act committed this morning, and [to] repair the damage to the site caused by these deplorable actions," he told the Times of Israel. 

In the face of Israeli accusations of having incited the violence in the West Bank, Abbas has tried to tamp down bellicose rhetoric. He stated that he sought to avoid confrontation with Israel -- "we are telling our security forces, our political movements, that we do not want an escalation but that we want to protect ourselves."

 

Pope Francis counseled, "Say no to hatred and revenge"

A relative of 22-year-old Mahmoud Hatim Hmeid, who was killed by Israeli soldiers, cries during his funeral in Gaza City, Oct
A relative of 22-year-old Mahmoud Hatim Hmeid, who was killed by Israeli soldiers, cries during his funeral in Gaza City, Oct. 17, 2015.

The Holy Father is yet again speaking out against the violence. On Sunday, he said the region needed "much courage and much strength of spirit to say no to hatred and revenge."

The pope has been a major advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the past. The Vatican officially recognized Palestinian statehood in May in the form of a bilateral treaty, but has also said that not recognizing the state of Israel is an act of anti-Semitism.

 

Hezbollah leader praised the "renewed intifada"

Israeli officials stand near the body of an alleged Palestinian attacker in Jerusalem, Oct. 17, 2015.
Israeli officials stand near the body of an alleged Palestinian attacker in Jerusalem, Oct. 17, 2015.

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah group announced his support for the Palestinian attacks on Israelis on Sunday. "It is everyone's responsibility to stand by it and help it, each with their own capabilities, abilities and circumstances," he said during a broadcast.

The Israeli government has been at odds with Hezbollah for years. In 2006, Israel attempted to knock out Hezbollah troops in Lebanon, leading to a 33-day war that caused 119 Israeli and more than 1,000 Lebanese deaths.

 

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio visited Israel, called for end to violence

De Blasio prays after placing a wish paper at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in the old city of Jerusalem. October
De Blasio prays after placing a wish paper at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in the old city of Jerusalem. October 18, 2015.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, on a solidarity trip to Israel, met with the mayors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Saturday and also visited stabbing victims. He called off his visit to the West Bank due to security concerns.

He said on Sunday that the street violence is "unconscionable and unacceptable according to all our values and it is something that must end."