Rising violence in West Bank opens new front for Netanyahu and Abbas

According to Palestinian health authorities, at least 56 Palestinians were killed last week in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, during clashes with Israeli troops, raids and attacks by Jewish settlers.

More than two weeks after Hamas carried out an ill-timed attack on Israel on Saturday the 7th of this month, fears of increased violence in the West Bank are now growing.

The movement of Israeli troops towards its border in the southwest of the country due to a possible ground intervention in the Gaza Strip, in response to the 1,400 Israeli deaths – most of them civilians – after the Hamas attack, added to more than 2,300 Palestinians The deaths – half of them children and women – due to the nearly 6,000 bombs dropped on Gaza, according to Israeli officials, have opened the door to a possible escalation of the conflict.

According to Palestinian health authorities, at least 56 Palestinians were killed last week in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during clashes with Israeli troops, raids and attacks by Jewish settlers. The United Nations (UN), meanwhile, said through its observers that last week was the deadliest for Palestinians since at least 2005, considering that more than 1,100 of them have been hurt.

Reports from various media outlets in the region, as well as videos published by human rights organizations – some of Israeli origin – show the growing violence in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in June 2023. Photo: AP.

According to the Palestinian National Authority, the number of settler attacks in the West Bank increased exponentially following the Hamas attack from Gaza, but hostilities have continued since the beginning of the year, when Benjamin’s government Netanyahu responded to a series of attacks, notably in Tel Aviv, with a prolonged military operation in the West Bank. Israeli authorities say that a total of 35 Israelis, including 26 civilians, died in this context between January and August, before the Hamas attack, reported the Wall Street Journal, citing the Shin Bet, the internal security service of Hamas. ‘Israel.

In Palestine, some deplore the aging leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, 87, in power for almost two decades.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a joint statement with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Ramallah, West Bank. Photo: AP.

“If the settlers attack Ramallah, the first to protect them would be the Palestinian Authority,” Ramez Abu Jaber, a 24-year-old from the Qaddura refugee camp, told the Guardian. “The Israeli army protects the settlers. But it’s them who protect them, not us. »

In a harsh tone, he went on to criticize that if “the Palestinian Authority cannot fulfill its obligations, it should leave and let the people do their job; “We can take care of it.”

For Netanyahu, on the other hand, the situation in the West Bank creates a bigger strategic problem, Zoran Kusovac, a geopolitical and security analyst, wrote in an Al Jazeera column. Kusovac, who has spent nearly four decades covering conflicts in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, said that “Israeli authorities know that possible Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories could target settlers in isolated colonies.

Mobilizing human and military resources from around the strip to the other corner of the map, in the West Bank, would mean transporting a number of “between 30,000 and 50,000 troops” to cover all the established settlements, he added. ‘analyst.

Kusovac wrote on Al Jazeera that “military authorities do not reveal the number of checkpoints or their locations, and new makeshift checkpoints often spring up overnight.” Another factor, he explained, are “the two faces of violence: the institutionalized but contained harassment of the military and the indescribable hatred and belligerence of the settlers who, unlike other citizens of Israel, can legally and openly carry automatic weapons.

Protesters in Hebron, West Bank, take part in a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Photo: REUTERS.

Attacks on civilians by Hamas, coupled with the Israeli response, have boosted morale. Numerous demonstrations have been called in Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus, calling for solidarity in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank territory increase, international media reported.

“The pain and anger is palpable,” said Yara Hawari, senior analyst at the Ramallah-based think tank Al-Shabaka: The Palestine Policy Network, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Gaza and the West Bank are not separate entities. They are divided, but culturally and socially they are very united.

Last Friday, 16 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed. Israeli police said four of them were shot dead by security officers after detonating explosive devices in an apparent attempt to breach the West Bank security fence, the Times of Israel reported.

A few days earlier, at the beginning of the previous week, the Palestinian authorities had denounced the murder of three of their own “during an attack carried out by settlers”, reported the same media. Two videos recorded the violent events, released by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. In one of them, an Israeli is seen in the village of At-Tuwani, south of Hebron. He then pushes a Palestinian, then shoots him at point-blank range as he falls to his knees. All this, from the point of view of an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, detailed The Guardian.

British media detailed the events by interviewing the head of the village council, Abdul Azim al Wadi. “Five settlers entered the village from the southeast. At least one of them had a gun. “They went to Awad Odeh, who had already been murdered by settlers in 2014,” he explained.

Mourners carry the bodies of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli settlers in Nablus, West Bank. Photo: REUTERS.

“They shot their son Awad, seriously injured, and their eight-year-old daughter, injured in the shoulder. They wanted to kill, they aimed for the head. The villagers came out and the Israel Defense Forces also arrived. “They shot at the villagers.” The story does not end there. The next day, they returned and attacked Qusra’s funeral procession. “They killed my brother and my nephew,” he concluded.

On the other hand, Israeli authorities reported the discovery of caches of illegal weapons, some from Iraq and Syria, which contributed to destabilizing the territory, detailed the Wall Street Journal. At the same time, arms trafficking “also reflects the weakening of the Palestinian Authority’s control over the territory’s security, as new militant groups have challenged power in recent months,” explains the American newspaper.

The Israeli army arrested 330 people during raids in the West Bank, they assured the local press, where 190 of them were suspected members of Hamas operating in the territory located in the northeast of Israel. In addition, law enforcement officials claim to have foiled more than ten terrorist attacks in the West Bank since the start of the war.

The end result, Zoran Kusovac believes, is a spiral in which “the bloody scenes of Israeli villages invaded by Hamas gunmen and people riddled with machine guns in their homes or captured have created a new reality on the ground. The settlers now insist on direct and close protection, and the authorities cannot deny it.

Al-Shabaka analyst Yara Hawari agrees with careful scrutiny of the Palestinian. “Under the cover of what is happening in Gaza, settlers and soldiers feel emboldened to commit violations of the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “The atmosphere created by the Israeli government encourages settlers to take the law into their own hands. »

A missile falls on a tower in Gaza City, October 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS.

Recently, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Minister of National Security, described as “far-right” and having a “long history of anti-Arab incitement,” according to the Times of Israel, responded to the attack on Hamas against civilians by calling on West Bank settlers to arm themselves. In a statement, he said his office was distributing 10,000 firearms, as well as combat equipment, protective vests and helmets. “We are going to change the world so that the colonies are protected,” he said.

Although Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesman, called on settlers to withdraw from the area last Saturday – “responsibility for security in the settlements and on the roads rests solely with the army “, he assured – WhatsApp channels continued to circulate. a message which called, with “the security forces”, for “the immediate demolition of the terrorists’ houses”.

The text, consulted by the same media, declared: “From the stories coming from the Gaza Strip, it is clear that we cannot believe that the army can protect us alone in times of chaos (…). Are you ready for war? » he concluded.

Source: Latercera

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