Israeli Officials Struggle to Contain Spate of Violent Attacks – Jodi Rudoren/The New York Times
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The bulletins erupted in staccato bursts Friday morning on Israel Radio and on a WhatsApp group the Israeli police set up for reporters: A man in the southern city of Dimona stabbed a municipal worker. Then three others. With a knife and a screwdriver. And was arrested.
But this time, the accused assailant was Jewish, the victims a Bedouin citizen of Israel and three Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. After a spate of similar stabbings by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers and civilians, it was quickly counted as a revenge attack amid the spiraling unrest.
The Dimona man was subdued without injury — unlike the attackers of previous days, most of whom were killed or severely wounded by police officers, soldiers or, in one case on Wednesday, a victim who pulled out his personal weapon. “Of course the Jewish stabber ended the stabbing spree (4 stabbings) without a bullet or scratch,” Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of Israel’s Parliament, wryly noted on Twitter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel released a statement saying he “strongly condemns the attack against innocent Arabs,” as did other Jewish leaders, who have criticized their Palestinian counterparts for failing to denounce attacks by their people.
“Those who use violence and break the law — from whatever side — will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
Within a couple of hours, the Dimona stabbing had been overshadowed by bulletins about three more stabbings: In Kiryat Arba, a large Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron, a Palestinian who knifed a police officer and tried to grab his gun was shot and killed, according to the police. At the central bus station in the northern town of Afula, the police said, a female assailant tried to stab a soldier, but a security guard and two police officers shot and wounded her. Stabbings also occurred in both Kiryat Arba and Afula on Thursday.
In Jerusalem, a 16-year-old yeshiva student initially reported being punched on Friday afternoon, and he was only later discovered to have a small stab wound on his upper body. The police found a vegetable peeler nearby that was suspected as the weapon.
Israeli security officials have been struggling to contain what they describe as “inspiration attacks,” carried out by individuals inspired by something they hear in a mosque or see on social media networks, as opposed to the organized, “guidance terror attacks,” which can often be thwarted by intelligence.
Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in Parliament, called on Thursday for a complete closing of the West Bank, which would prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians with permits to work inside Israel from doing so. (That, of course, would not address the 300,000 who are Jerusalem residents and do not have to cross checkpoints in Israel, nor Israeli Jews like Friday’s Dimona stabber.)
Avi Dichter, a Parliament member from Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party and a former director of Israel’s internal security service, said on Friday that the Old City of Jerusalem, the site of several recent attacks, “should look like a military base.”
“It is unthinkable that we consider this wave of terror to be unstoppable,” Mr. Dichter said on Israel Radio. “There is a series of things that can be done. There must be massive mobilization of personnel, including reservists.”
Though the Dimona stabbing was the first by a Jewish Israeli to so closely mimic the attacks by Palestinians, Palestinian news outlets have reported a number of episodes this week of West Bank settlers and other right-wing Israelis hurling stones at Palestinian cars, among other things.
Israeli news media reported on Friday that hundreds of Jewish extremists had staged angry protests and harassed Arab citizens in several cities the night before, leading to the arrest of a handful of activists in known hard-line groups.
Members of Lehava, a group that often threatens Jewish-Arab couples, and La Familia, a far-right fan club of the Beitar soccer team, marched through Jerusalem to the Old City, chanting “death to Arabs,” according to video footage. Some aggressively asked passers-by if they were Arab and occasionally gave chase, the news media reported, and also threw stones at police officers in their path.
Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli columnist, published a lengthy interview in Friday’s Yediot Aharonot with an anonymous military official, who said 17 Jews had recently been detained on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attacks, and “we have additional names.”
“We are working to prevent Israelis from taking the law into their own hands,” the official was quoted as saying. “We embrace the settlers, but try to set red lines for them at the same time.”