Gazans join in widespread violence sweeping Israel – William Booth/The Washington Post
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Palestinians in Gaza joined in angry protests sweeping across Israel and the West Bank, rushing Israel’s perimeter fence and throwing stones at soldiers, who shot and killed six Gaza residents and wounded 60, many of whom were in serious condition, according to the health ministry.
The clash at the Gaza fence marks the highest death toll in the coastal enclave since last year’s war between Hamas and Israel.
After Friday prayers in Gaza, the leader of the Islamist militant movement Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, declared that a third Palestinian uprising, or intifada, had begun “and we intend to join in.”
Israel’s military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said hundreds of Gaza demonstrators “stormed the border fence multiple times. After firing warning shots, the forces fired at main instigators to prevent their advance.”
Lerner said Hamas police stood by and watched.
Just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a rare news conference to tell Israelis “we don’t need to be afraid,” Israel and the West Bank experienced an eighth day of violent demonstrations, knife attacks and mob vengeance.
At his news conference late Thursday, Netanyahu tried to assure anxious Israelis that his government would quell the unrest, but he added that there was no magic wand to wave.
Israeli commentators pounced and called Netanyahu’s messages mixed, highlighting the challenges he faces stopping violence that is driven by multiple actors, including Islamist radicals, Jewish extremists and Palestinian “lone-wolf” teenage attackers with no ties to militants or mullahs.
Israel’s attempts to stop the violence also include harsh military and police tactics that allow for more live fire against rioters and terror suspects, thereby creating more Palestinian martyrs, mourned in ever larger, angrier funerals.
The prime minister told Israelis they were seeing “a wave of terror,” but that “we not need to be afraid.” Jewish parents in Jerusalem refused to send their children to school for the second day Friday.
Netanyahu again blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for incitement but also suggested that the two could work together to ease tensions.
“Now is the time for a government of national unity,” the Israeli prime minister said, and he called on the opposition in parliament, led by the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog, to form a coalition. But within minutes, Herzog rejected the offer, charging that Netanyahu had “lost control over the security of Israel’s citizens.”
Shimon Shiffer, writing in Israel’s largest paid circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, dismissed Netanyahu’s news conference as “recycled cliches.”
Netanyahu said the violence is being driven by Palestinian incitement, radical Islamists, Hamas and Abbas. He commended his security forces for “neutralizing” terror suspects.
He refuted claims that Israel had plans to change the status quo at a site in Jerusalem’s Old City revered by both Jews and Muslims. On Thursday, Netanyahu had declared the site, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews the Temple Mount, off-limits to parliament members, whose trips to the mosque compound, accompanied by armed escorts, were fanning the flames.
Palestinians say the violence is being driven by the almost-50-year-old military occupation, the partial trade and travel blockade of Gaza, the failure of the peace process and the sense that they have been abandoned by the world, and the United States in particular.
Ordinary Palestinians believe Israel has designs to usher in Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount — they point to statements of support by top Israeli ministers advocating such a change.
Passions on both sides are being informed and inflamed by social media and use of cellphone videos, which show in near real-time an undercover Israeli police officer shooting a Palestinian suspect in the leg, and wounded Israelis covered in blood being dragged away to ambulances.
Many Israelis say they feel deep insecurity. Top ministers in Netanyahu’s own government are complaining that police and the military are not doing enough, and members of Netanyahu’s own Likud Party have joined a sit-in demonstration in front of Netanyahu’s official residence to demand a crackdown and the mass construction of more Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
On Thursday, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, advised all Israelis who have permits to carry weapons to do so.
Barkat was shown in a video carrying a shouldered rifle during a visit to a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Israeli police installed metal detectors Friday at hot spots around Jerusalem’s Old City, but a Washington Post reporter found them unplugged.
At the site where a well-known rabbi and an off-duty soldier were fatally stabbed last week, members of a group pushing for more Jewish settlers in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter were singing and baking bread.
Daniel Luria, a spokesman for the group, called Ateret Cohanim, said more police and metal detectors in the Old City would not stop terror attacks. “Every Jewish house in the Old City has its own security,” Luria said.
What is really needed, he argued, was for Netanyahu to approve building more Jewish housing in the Muslim Quarter near the Flower Gate. “Cut a flower, plant a flower,” Luria said.
Violence continued around Israel on Friday.
In the southern desert city of Dimona, a Jewish Israeli, alleged to suffer from mental illness, stabbed four Arabs, two seriously, in what police labeled a nationalistically motivated attack.
A security guard in Afula in northern Israel shot an Arab woman after she brandished a knife and attempted to stab him, police said. She was taken to a hospital. In the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, another Israeli policeman was stabbed and lightly wounded by a Palestinian man who was then shot to death by other officers.
Late Thursday, Jews attacked three Arabs in Netanya in central Israel, shouting “death to the Arabs,” according to Ynet news. Two managed to escape, but the third was wounded. Police rescued him, the news site reported.