A series of terrorist attacks and violent incidents have again put Israel and the Palestinian territories in suspense.
In just one week, 11 people have been killed in three attacks in Israeli towns. It was the deadliest week Israel has seen in years and follows weeks of rising tensions that have seen Israelis targeted in stabbings and several Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank.
The overlapping of three major religious holidays over the next month – Ramadan, Passover and Easter – could further heighten tensions, heightening a potent mix of factors that could trigger a new cycle of violence.
Here are five things you need to know about the recent uptick in violence.
The deadly attacks did not take place in typical hotspots, contested areas like Jerusalem or the West Bank, much of which is considered by the international community to be occupied territory. Instead, they occurred in Israeli towns unaccustomed to such violence.
Unusually, two of the attacks were carried out by Israeli Arabs. On March 22, an Arab-Israeli killed four Israeli civilians in a stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba, Israeli police said. The attacker had previously been imprisoned for supporting ISIS.
On Sunday, two Arab-Israeli men killed two Border Police officers and injured six bystanders in the northern town of Hadera, local media reported. Both men were also affiliated with ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the incident – ISIS’s first claim for an attack in Israel since 2017.
Then on Tuesday evening, a Palestinian from the West Bank shot and killed five people in Bnei Brak, a predominantly Orthodox town just east of Tel Aviv. Two of those killed were Ukrainian citizens, two were Israeli civilians and one was a police officer who responded to the scene, according to Israel Police. In all three cases, the assailants were shot dead by civilians or security forces.
Tensions had been rising for weeks, even before the three attacks. Several Palestinians were stabbed against Israelis in Jerusalem in March and several Palestinians, including teenagers, were shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank during clashes in recent weeks.
The security situation is getting worse. While many recent attacks have targeted police or military forces in Jerusalem’s Old City, the most recent stabbing targeted an Israeli jogging in a popular neighborhood outside the Old City. Two of the three attacks last week targeted civilians.
The cycle of violence has continued ever since. On Thursday, two Palestinians – including a teenager – were killed and 15 others injured in an Israeli police raid in the West Bank city of Jenin targeting suspects linked to the Bnei Brak shooting. The attacker’s family home is also to be demolished, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said, a common practice by Israeli forces to ‘create deterrence’ (Israeli military says families can try to appeal demolitions) .
Hours later, an Israeli was stabbed on a bus in the West Bank just south of Bethlehem. The attacker, a Palestinian, was shot dead by an armed civilian on the bus, the Israeli army said.
And for months, Palestinian and Israeli activists have warned that violence against Palestinians perpetrated by Israeli settlers is at an all-time high. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has pledged to deal with settler violence with a ‘heavy hand’, calling the perpetrators ‘terrorists’ and promising special military teams to help monitor areas where the clashes have taken place. tendency to erupt – although most Palestinians are already wary of the Israelis. soldiers, saying they think they are only helping to protect the settlers.
Israel’s security alert status has been raised to its highest level. This means the police are much more visible on the streets, working longer hours and focusing their presence on schools and popular gathering places.
Troop presence in the West Bank around the Gaza Strip has also increased, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announcing the addition of 14 battalions and combat soldiers from special forces units. Soldiers who carry a certain class of weapon will also have to take their weapons with them even while on leave, Bennett said.
Bennett also issued an unusual appeal to all civilians with firearms permits to keep their guns on their person from now on at all times, saying Israelis should be “alert”.
“Open your eyes. Anyone who has a license to carry a gun, now is the time to carry it,” he said in a video statement on Wednesday.
Palestinian activist groups hailed the attacks and called for further action, including in response to raids in the West Bank and violence by Jewish settlers.
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said in a statement: “The continued crimes of the occupation portend a global explosion, which will be more powerful and more painful, in which our people will be involved in all parts of our occupied territory. ”
Abu Hamza, the military spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, announced “the raising of the full preparation of our fighters in all military formations”.
Violence could threaten Bennett’s slim margin in parliament. The current government coalition is made up of right, left and center parties, including, for the first time, an Arab party.
Opposition leader (and former prime minister) Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters have blamed the wave of violence on the coalition government. Former security officials called the attacks intelligence failures, especially since some of the attackers last week had previously been in jail for supporting or supporting terrorism.
As leading Israeli journalist Barak Ravid wrote in Axios this week: “For years, personal security has been one of the main issues on which Israelis have voted. A sense of insecurity among the public could erode the government’s very narrow base of support.