Jerusalem shooting and Jenin raid: Why Israeli-Palestinian violence is soaring

These two days have been violent in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. On Friday night in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian gunman killed at least seven Israelis in the deadliest attack in the city since 2008. Israeli officials described the shooting outside a synagogue as an act of terrorism. Earlier Friday, three rockets were fired from Gaza and Israeli jets attacked an underground Hamas bomb-making facility, according to the Israeli military.

A day earlier, in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, Israeli commandos raided an apartment building and its surroundings, killing nine Palestinians and injuring 20, in what a Palestinian Authority spokesman said. called a «massacre». Israel said the raid site housed a terror cell from the Islamic Jihad group.

More than one Palestinian was killed a day on average in the first month of 2023, on track to double the tragic rate of deadly violence in the occupied West Bank last year – which was already the highest on record since the Nations have started to collect this data. data, and double that of 2021.

Little is known about the Friday shooter or his motives; he was killed by the police after attacking the synagogue.

The growing cycle of violence comes as CIA Director Bill Burns visits Israel and Palestine; Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives there on Monday. «We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank,» State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday in a statement. a statement.

But analysts described the increasingly deadly and volatile situation as the product of foreclosed hope and other structural factors, exacerbated by the rise to power of a far-right Israeli government earlier this month. At the very least, things are unlikely to calm down.

The situation for the Palestinians was already bad and continues to worsen, says Mairav ​​Zonszein, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. «With a new far-right government committed to continuing Palestinian dispossession and settlement expansion, with the Palestinian body politic in shambles, and no international actor taking proactive action, the crisis is likely to continue to escalate.» , she wrote in a message.

What we know about the attacks

It is unusual, if not unprecedented, for a Palestinian attacker to respond so quickly to an Israeli raid like Thursday’s in Jenin, an Israeli analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me. While it’s too early to draw any big conclusions about the details of each developing story, it’s clear that the already dire situation could turn very ugly.

On Friday night outside a synagogue in the Israeli settlement of Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian militant shot at least 10 people and was killed by police. The situation continues and no Palestinian militant group immediately took credit for it, but police identified the shooter as a 21-year-old East Jerusalem resident. The attack occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. No information on the victims was immediately shared.

The Jerusalem police chief has pledged to «aggressively and meaningfully» pursue anyone who encourages the attacker. “Israel will continue to act forcefully against the threat of terrorism. We will pursue and reach out to all terrorists who harm Israeli citizens,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A day earlier, a deadly Israeli raid on a Palestinian home in the Jenin refugee camp left nine people dead, including an elderly woman named Majida Obaid. «Most of the injuries that arrived at the hospital today were in the head and chest area,» read a Palestinian Health Ministry statement on the raid on Thursday, quoted by the Mondoweiss news site. . «This means that the live ammunition fired at the residents was intended to kill.» Israeli forces also obstructed the movement of ambulances with gunfire, hospital chief Wissam Baker told Al Jazeera.

Relatives mourn at the January 19 funeral ceremony for two Palestinians killed by Israeli army bullets during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Armed Palestinian resistance groups have grown in the occupied territories, including Jenin, partly in response to the fractured nature of the Palestinian leadership, the lack of opportunities for Palestinians, and long-stalled negotiations that could lead to a sovereign state of Palestine. Over the past year, Israeli forces have responded to these new groups, including Lion’s Den, with intensive raids resulting in large numbers of civilian deaths.

The State Department’s top Middle East official, Barbara Leaf, told reporters on Thursday that the deadly strike in Jenin had dismantled «a ticking time bomb of a threat – of a terrorist threat», apparently amplifying comments from a senior Israeli military official.

In response to the Israeli operation, Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he would end security coordination with the Israeli government. Some pundits noted that this was often a talking point for Abbas, but he didn’t always follow through.

The United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Francesca Albanese, underlined Israel’s obligation as the occupying power to protect Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and underline the «deeply alarmingly high rate of apparent extrajudicial executions of Palestinians in 2022 continues into the new year».

Should we expect more violence under the new Israeli government?

In November, Israelis elected the most extreme government in the country’s history. More than 80,000 demonstrators demonstrated against the new members of the government and their legal moves which would weaken the authority of the country’s Supreme Court. Even Moshe Ya’alon, a former defense minister who had been a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party, called Israel’s new government a «dictatorship of criminals». But less attention inside Israel has been given to the drastic implications of the new radical coalition government for Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living under occupation.

«The death toll in both the West Bank and now in Jerusalem is actually the entirely predictable result of an extremist Israeli government that is propagating violence,» said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the advocacy organization and research Democracy for the Arab World. Now.

The Biden administration, for its part, has so far contained its criticism of the government. Although the Biden administration still offers the prospect of a two-state solution and an independent Palestinian state, those talks have been frozen since 2014, and more recently Israel has forged diplomatic relations with Arab states like the United Arab Emirates. States, Bahrain and Morocco. , giving the government of Israel little incentive to advance a two-state outcome.

It’s unclear how Secretary of State Blinken will manage to defuse tensions between Israelis and Palestinians on his upcoming trip. Priorities for the visit include «preserving the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and protecting human rights and democratic values», all of which are in danger of further deterioration.

Tom Pickering, a career ambassador who previously served in Israel, fears rising violence could lead to a third intifada, or uprising, among Palestinians. «At the moment, the two-state outcome, as most people like to say, is dead,» he told me. «But there is a stateless outcome being made» – that is, a status quo sought by the current Israeli government, in which a Palestinian state is no longer a viable possibility.

But the tragic violence of the last two days shows that this is not a solution at all.

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