The bloodiest wave of attacks in seven years sows terror in Israel | International

Funeral for one of the victims of the attacks, on Wednesday in Bnei Brak (Israel).
Funeral for one of the victims of the attacks, on Wednesday in Bnei Brak (Israel).Ariel Schalit (AP)

The virality in the social networks of several videos of armed arab men, who stab or open fire indiscriminately in the streets of three cities, has spread terror among the citizens of Israel in just one week. The largest wave of attacks recorded since 2015, —in what was then called the Infifada of the Knives— has spurred the alertness of the security forces to a level not remembered since the war in the Gaza Strip last May.

The point-blank shooting of a Palestinian from the West Bank, who had been jailed in Israel for planning another attack, claimed the lives of a rabbi, a Jewish driver, two Ukrainian migrants and an Israeli Arab policeman in the suburb on Sunday night. ultra-Orthodox from Bnei Brak, in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. With this shooting, there are already 11 people killed in attacks since last Tuesday, when an Israeli Bedouin killed four passers-by, two men and two women, stabbed or run over by a vehicle in Beersheva (to the south). On Tuesday night, two policemen were gunned down by two Israeli Arabs in Hadera (north). While the Beersheva attacker apparently acted in isolation, in keeping with the pattern of lone wolves, intelligence services are investigating whether the Hadera attackers were directed from abroad. All were killed by Israeli security forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has summoned the ministerial security cabinet, the government body that orders major military deployments, to respond with an “iron fist” to what he defined as a “wave of Arab terrorism.” Bennett called on citizens for “vigilance and responsibility” in a televised message: “Whoever has a licensed weapon, it is time to carry it with them.” The police have mobilized almost all of their agents in administrative positions to place them in surveillance tasks of educational centers, official buildings or transport terminals. The Armed Forces have reinforced their presence with four battalions (more than a thousand soldiers) in the area of ​​Nablus and Jenin, north of the West Bank, where the Bnei Brak attacker came from, and around Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority close to Jerusalem.

At least five people have been arrested in a raid in Jenin on suspicion of having helped Diaa Hamarsheh, 27, the perpetrator of Tuesday’s attack, to cross the security barrier (walls, fences and fences) that surrounds the West Bank to arrive with an M16 assault rifle to the center of Bnei Brak. Before he was shot down by security forces, he can be seen in a video posted on Twitter how he approached a vehicle after having shot the driver, pointing his gun with the intention of finishing off the victim if he was still alive. Hamarsheh had recently posted on her Facebook account a photo of Mohamed Halabi, the Palestinian who sparked the Knife Intifada in October 2015 with his attacks.

Conviction of Mahmoud Abbas

Hamas leader Ismail Haniye hailed the bomber as “the hero of Tel Aviv” who acted in “response to the summit of Negev criminals,” referring to the diplomatic forum attended by four Arab foreign ministers on Sunday. and Monday in southern Israel. In a rare statement released Tuesday night, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack as an “aggression against civilians that only leads to the deterioration of the situation.”

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The first two attacks in the current wave were committed by Israeli Arabs (20% of the country’s population) who had already been convicted and imprisoned for their links to the Islamic State (ISIS).

Until now, jihadist terrorism had barely hit Israel, which during the war in Syria has closely followed the movements of its citizens and of the Palestinians who enlisted in the ranks of Salafist rebels during the conflict in the neighboring country. More than a dozen suspects have been arrested for their alleged links to ISIS in the Israeli district of Um al Fham, on the border between Israel and the northern West Bank.

The security analysts of the Hebrew press interpret the attack carried out by a Palestinian from the West Bank in the urban heart of Israel as an “emulation attack”. The conjunction of the month of Ramadan (which begins this week) and Jewish Passover (which this year coincides with Holy Week) makes the authorities fear that violence will escalate in the West Bank and, above all, in East Jerusalem, as well as in the mixed Israeli cities, with Arab and Jewish population.

The announced visit of Jewish extremists, this Thursday, to the Esplanade of the Mosques, has forced extreme police surveillance in the Old City of Jerusalem. “The ball is now in the Israeli eaves,” says Alex Fishman, security correspondent for the daily Yedioth Ahronot. “Any false move or thoughtless decision can take us back to the dark days of suicide attacks,” warns this expert, “and that could precisely be the goal of the jihadists or Hamas: to provoke a third intifada.”

There will be no shortage of bullets in a new conflict. Until recently, the security forces have not decisively confronted the insecurity that reigns in Israeli Arab communities, where criminal gangs control the smuggling of thousands of weapons, many of which have been stolen from the Armed Forces themselves. Inter-communal violence and sectarian clashes last year in mixed-population Israeli cities showed that guns are ready to be wielded.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (left) and Jordan's King Adbdallah II in Amman on Wednesday.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog (left) and Jordan’s King Adbdallah II in Amman on Wednesday.HAIM ZACH/Government Press Offic (via REUTERS)

Call for calm from Jordan

To try to stop the escalation of violence, all eyes converge on Jordan. King Abdullah II visited Ramallah on Tuesday to ask Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to step up security coordination with Israel during the religious holidays. From Israel, the Israeli Ministers of Public Security (police), Omer Bar-Lev, and of Defense, Benny Gantz, have traveled to Amman with the same message for the Jordanian Government. The President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, has finally met this Wednesday with the Hashemite monarch, custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem, according to the peace treaty that both countries signed in 1994. The leaders called for calm.

Abdullah II insisted on “removing all obstacles that prevent Muslims from praying on the Esplanade of the Mosques, as well as preventing provocations that could unleash an escalation of violence.” as he warns Amos Harel, security analyst for the newspaper haaretz, “This unprecedented Israeli diplomatic deployment, in a very short time and in broad public daylight, shows how much is at stake [en el mes de Ramadán, junto a las Pascuas judía y cristiana]”.

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