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Latest Israel News – 21st July

Palestinian attempts to stab IDF troops in West Bank; attacker shot dead

A Palestinian assailant attempted to stab an IDF soldier stationed near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa on Thursday afternoon, the military confirmed.

Security forces shot and killed the would-be terrorist in response to the attempted attack.

There were no injuries to the Israeli troops.

The thwarted attack came as tensions remained high in the wake of a fatal shooting attack that killed two Israeli Border Police officers last week at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, two soldiers were lightly wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.

A Palestinian arrived driving a car at the entrance to the village of Beit Anun and accelerated into the troops, the army said. Forces responded by firing their weapons at the man, killing him.

Tensions have flared between Israeli and Muslim authorities after Israel decided to place metal detectors at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount as part of extra security measures following Friday’s attack.

On Thursday, the IDF announced that it was prepared to place five extra battalions in the West Bank ahead of Friday prayers.  (Jerusalem Post)

Bracing for Temple Mount violence, Israel boosts security

Following a security assessment Thursday morning, amid escalating tensions at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, the IDF decided to deploy five battalions comprising hundreds of soldiers to the area to brace for potential violence on Friday.

The decision will be finalized following another situation assessment Friday morning.

The latest friction surrounds the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the contested Jerusalem shrine following a deadly terrorist attack there last week. Israel maintains that the metal detectors are essential to ensure security, while Muslims oppose the move, claiming it is an Israeli attempt to expand its control over the site.

Mass protests were expected to erupt at the site on Friday, the highlight of the Muslim religious week, when tens of thousands of Muslims typically attend prayers in the walled compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. Sporadic violent clashes in and around the compound since the introduction of the metal detectors raised concerns of further escalation.

Earlier Thursday, reports suggested that American and Jordanian mediators were stepping in to resolve the crisis. According to the reports, the Americans are seeking a compromise whereby the metal detectors will be removed and instead, security personnel will conduct individual security checks on flagged suspects.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday expressing concern over the latest developments and calling on Israel and the Jordanian administrators overseeing the site to defuse tensions.

“The United States is very concerned about tensions surrounding the Temple Mount/Hamam Al-Sharif, a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians,” the statement said. “[We] call upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo.”

Palestinian sources reported that Israel had been given a Thursday evening deadline to remove the metal detectors. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, currently heading back to the region after cutting his visit to China short, was to convene an emergency consultation upon returning to Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that he did not intend to instruct security forces to remove the metal detectors.

Netanyahu spoke by phone from Hungary Wednesday with Israeli security chiefs about the escalation in Jerusalem and was to hold further consultations after his return to Israel on Thursday.

“There is no change regarding the metal detectors,” Netanyahu told security officials during the phone consultation.

Several thousand Muslims worshippers prayed Wednesday evening in the streets near Lions’ Gate, one of the entrances to the shrine, now fitted with metal detectors.

Muslim clerics on Wednesday urged the faithful to forego prayers in neighborhood mosques in the city on Friday and converge on the shrine, in an attempt to draw larger crowds. Worshippers were instructed to pray in the streets rather than submit to the new security procedures.

Israeli media reported that security chiefs were at odds over the new security measures. Israel’s Shin Bet security service reportedly opposes the metal detectors as counterproductive, while the Israel Police support the new measures.

Netanyahu said Israel was in close contact with Jordan, the traditional Muslim custodian of the shrine. Netanyahu said Jordan wants to “end this as quietly as possible.”

“We expect everyone to help restore calm,” he said.

Netanyahu rejected Muslim allegations that Israel is changing long-standing arrangements at the holy site. “We should look at the facts and the truth — the installation of metal detectors does not constitute any change in the status quo,” he said. “It is only meant to prevent a repeat of an attack with weapons.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the key to restoring calm is to have Israel respect the “historic and legal status” at the shrine, Amman’s state news agency Petra reported.

Safadi told ambassadors from Europe and Asia that ending tensions is in Israel’s hands, adding that Israel should immediately reopen the shrine without any hindrances.

After last week’s shooting attack, in which three Israeli Arabs murdered two Israeli police officers, Israel closed the site for two days for searches. It was only the third time the site was closed since Israel reunited Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The closure drew wide condemnation from the Muslim world. Israel began opening the site gradually on Sunday. (Israel Hayom)

Netanyahu: No decision made yet on Temple Mount metal detectors

Israel is reaching out to the Arab world to explain that the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount is not a change of the status quo, but meant only to prevent the use of weapons at the site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, in a briefing with reporters in Budapest where he met with the leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said that there is no change in Israel’s position regarding the need for the metal detectors.

He held phone consultations on the matter with senior security officials on Wednesday, but no decision was taken on whether to remove the devices.

Netanyahu said there will be other security consultations that he cannot discuss.

“We want to solve the crisis in the quietest way possible, and return the quiet,” he said. “We are speaking with the Arab world, and explaining that there is no change in the status quo [on the Temple Mount]. This is a measure to prevent the use of weapons on the Temple Mount, something that happened for the first time.”

Netanyahu, who earlier this week was in Paris, pointed out that there are metal detectors at the Eiffel Tower because of the security situation there, and that more people visit that site than the Temple Mount.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF said that the use of the metal detectors isn’t necessary, and recommended instead that an agreement on the matter be reached, Channel 2 reported Wednesday night.

The metal detectors were placed at the entrances to the Temple Mount in the aftermath of Friday’s attack just outside the site in which terrorists killed two Border Police officers and then ran into the Temple Mount compound.

Police shut down the Temple Mount for two days, but reopened it again on Sunday after setting up metal detectors.

Muslim worshipers on Wednesday refused for the fourth consecutive day to enter the site to protest the installation of metal detectors, and instead prayed just outside the compound.

Clashes broke out between Palestinians and police near Lions’ Gate on Wednesday evening, with the crowd growing as night fell.

There are now metal detectors between the Lions’ Gate entrance to the capital’s Old City, and the Gate of the Tribes (Bab al-Asbat) entrance to the Temple Mount.

Some 200 men stood outside Lions’ Gate chanting “God is great.” Hundreds more Old City residents gathered inside the gate. Police blocked off that section of the Old City and would only allow residents to pass.

Palestinians have called for a “day of rage” on Friday to protest the metal detectors, urging Muslims to head to the Old City to pray just outside the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “I suggest that the protesters turn their rage against the terrorists who created a need [for the detectors] and not at the police.

“Muslim and international leaders must clarify that the Temple Mount can’t serve as a refuge or an organizational location for terrorists and murders,” Barkat said.

On Wednesday morning, police closed the compound to non-Muslim visitors, due to some visitors “breaching the rules of conduct that apply to the holy site.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) criticized the use of metal detectors and said that in these times our strength is being tested.

“This is an outrageous move of collective punishment that is providing a tailwind to terrorism,” said Smotrich. “The Wakf [Islamic trust] people and Israeli Arabs decided to open a wave of riots because of the installation of metal scanners, and now they are closing the Temple Mount because of some mumbling of [prayer] verses?” Smotrich then called on Jerusalem Police head Asst.- Ch. Yoram Halevy to reopen the Mount to non-Muslims.

“Our next steps will test our sovereignty here; we should not repeat past mistakes.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the closure a mistake and reiterated the call to open the site for Jews.

“There are days in which we should strengthen our sovereignty on the Temple Mount, and make it clear that we are not intimidated by threats.

“It can’t be that in the holiest place for Jews, they should feel that their status is lower than that of tourists.”

Later on, the site was reopened and dozens of non-Muslim visitors entered the site.

Restrictions are normally imposed on Jewish visitors to the compound, forbidding them to walk around freely or to pray. There are normally four hours a day in which non-Muslims can enter the site, a three-hour period in the morning, and one hour in the afternoon.

Few heeded the call for Wednesday’s day of rage in Jerusalem and the West Bank although sporadic clashes did break out.

In the area of Rachel’s Tomb on the northern edge of Bethlehem and at the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, scores of Palestinian rioters threw stones at security personnel, who dispersed them, according to a police spokeswoman.

Two Palestinian rioters were arrested in Bethlehem, she added.

In the Shuafat refugee camp in northeastern Jerusalem, Palestinians threw stones at security personnel, the spokeswoman said. Police arrested one masked rioter who had a Molotov cocktail, she added.

Violence also broke out on Tuesday night and early Wednesday between security personnel and Palestinians near Lions’ Gate.

The violence began after the evening prayer and continued into the early morning. It is unclear what sparked the violence.

According to Palestinian sources, 34 Palestinians have been reported injured among the hundreds of rioters near Lions’ Gate.

One of those reportedly injured is Sheikh Akram a-Sabri, al-Aksa’s preacher and the former mufti of Jerusalem.

Two policemen were lightly injured during the clashes.

A police spokesman said that the rioters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers situated next to Lions’ Gate.

He added that the rioters were dispersed from the area.  (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Authority’s 2017 Budget Shows ‘Huge Increase’ in Funding for Terror Payments

The Palestinian Authority’s 2017 budget shows a “huge increase” in the funding of salaries for imprisoned terrorists and the families of “martyrs,” an Israeli research institute revealed on Wednesday.

According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the amount of money allocated by the PA for payments to terrorists jailed in Israel rose 13% this year to $158 million — compared to $135 million in 2016. During the same time frame, disbursements for family members of dead terrorists increased by 4% — to $197 million from $183 million.

Overall, PMW said, the PA is spending $355 million this year on the direct funding of terrorism.

Itamar Marcus — the founder and director of PMW — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday, “There is no greater promotion of terror then the PA’s financially rewarding terrorists who have murdered Israelis. However it is critical to understand why the PA pays the salaries and why they refuse to stop. The PA claims that they have a right under international law to ‘resist’ Israel and that includes murdering Israelis. They argue to their own people that to stop paying the salaries to prisoners would be to admit that all of the prisoners including murderers of women and children are terrorists and not legitimate ‘freedom fighters.’ Accordingly, as horrific as the PA’s rewarding terror is, it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The essential problem is that the PA tells its people they have a right to kill Israelis. Paying salaries to the killers who get caught and are imprisoned is a symptom.”

Marcus continued, “This is a slap in the face to the United States and the other European donor countries who have all condemned this practice and have demanded that the PA stop immediately if they want to receive foreign funding. I expect that this information will have a great effect on the Taylor Force Act right now before Congress.”

The Taylor Force Act referred to by Marcus would, if passed, cut off American funding of the PA if the terror payments are not halted. The legislation is currently being considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Commenting on the data published by PMW, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper — the dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles — stated on Wednesday, “Is PA president running a mafia or a government? No Israeli government — right, center, or left — can seriously negotiate with a leader who embeds a pay-for-murder scheme to kill Jews.”

“[PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ priorities when it comes to his own people border on the bizarre,” they went on to say. “He spurned desperate pleas from mothers and withheld the funds to provide full electricity for his living constituents in Gaza, yet he eagerly escalates financial rewards for terrorists — dead and alive.”

“Now is the time for Germany’s [Angela] Merkel and France’s [Emmanuel] Macron to decrease their allotments to the PA and tell Abbas to stop playing Santa Claus for terrorists,” Hier and Cooper concluded.  (the Algemeiner)

Israel-Hamas deal stuck over Israeli demand for video proof

A possible deal between Israel and Hamas to return three Israeli citizens and the bodies of two IDF soldiers being held in Gaza is reportedly stuck over an Israeli demand to get a video proving Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima are alive, Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported Wednesday.

In return to such a video, Israel is reportedly willing to release several female prisoners, minors and Palestinian parliamentarians under administrative detention.

Hamas has rejected the Israeli demand, pushing instead for the release of 55 prisoners previously released in the 2011 Shalit deal and arrested anew after returning to terror activity. Israel opposes this demand.

Furthermore, in addition to information about the soldiers’ bodies, Hamas has demanded Israel to release the Palestinians arrested during the current ongoing round of violence.

Nevertheless, the paper reported some progress in the indirect talks mediated by Egypt, with inside sources saying “new proposals” were raised by Cairo during negotiations.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that “our commitment to return Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin home remains valid and true.”

Speaking at a ceremony marking three years to Operation Protective Edge, in which the two soldiers were killed, the prime minister added that “we are not giving up on this holy mission until it is completed successfully. This is true concerning Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, citizens being held in the Gaza Strip by a cruel enemy.”  (Ynet News)

How the IDF aids thousands of wounded Syrians

When Brigadier General Yaniv Asor arrived two years ago to command the IDF’s Golan Division during the murderous fighting in Syria, he concluded that steps must be taken to aid both sides in the conflict.

The IDF has been assisting the wounded in Syria in unprecedented numbers. Since the beginning of the fighting there, some 3,000 wounded have been treated in Israel, and about 1,000 children and their parents have been admitted for medical treatment.

“Only yesterday, two children underwent cardiac surgery at the Sheba Medical Center, their operations funded by the Peres Center for Peace,” Asor related.

The commander of the “Good Neighbor” branch of the IDF responsible for providing aid to Syrians, Lt. Col. A., related that, after the IDF learned that a local clinic in Syria had been bombed, the defense establishment rushed to send a medical team with equipment to help those in need.

Asor also said that “there was not a single terrorist attack from the area in which the rebels operate (where the locals are being held). This shows the importance of our work in cooperation with ‘Good Neighbor’.”  (Arutz Sheva)

Watch the video clip:

Palestinians’ Dilemma on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: Opposing Israel or Each Other?

by Pinhas Inbari                     Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Palestinians’ Dilemma on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: Opposing Israel or Each Other?

I spoke to several Fatah sources in east Jerusalem on July 17, 2017, as the “metal detector” crisis began to build, and their bottom-line is that they feel they are left alone to defend Jerusalem. They fear they may lose control of the situation; some individuals may take action on their own with serious consequences.

They told me that on Sunday, July 16, 2017, at a meeting in Ramallah of Fatah top echelons, Mahmud al-Alul, Abbas’ deputy in the Central Committee, told them that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was instructing them not to escalate the situation in Jerusalem. Instead of Jerusalem’s situation, they were to concentrate on the conflict with Hamas over Gaza.

Indeed, on July 19, 2017, Abbas delivered a policy speech in Beijing, China, and barely mentioned the current Jerusalem issues.

The Fatah leadership in Jerusalem told Ramallah that if at the moment of truth Fatah will not lead the “defense of al-Aqsa” – it will be the end for them; they will have no role to play anymore. Already now they are very weak compared to the Islamic religious players in Jerusalem.

Finally, on July 18, 2017, Fatah issued a statement calling for a “Day of Rage.”

What is the “Status Quo?”

The core of the conflict has become the security measures taken by Israel in installing metal detectors and magnetometers at the entrances of the gates of the Temple Mount compound, the “Haram.”

The Waqf (religious authority), as well as Fatah, reject these security measures on the grounds that they breach the status quo of the holy site, which is based on the understandings between Israel and Jordan in 1967. According to the agreement, the Haram is to be used exclusively for Muslim prayers, Israel is responsible for its security, and the site is open for non-Muslim tourist visits.

However, the PLO and Muslim movements never accepted the 1967 understanding, and for them, the status quo is from the period prior to 1967. That means Jews cannot enter the site; the Western Wall is Palestinian/Muslim; and, according to the PLO, the Palestinians will be responsible for security under Palestinian state sovereignty.

Despite the fact that the Jordan-affiliated Waqf operates closely to the Israeli interpretation of the status quo, the installing of the magnetometers sparked a dispute with Israel over the status quo. According to the Waqf – and Jordanian – interpretation, the area of the Haram includes both sides of the walls – inside and out. Hence, even the Western Wall is Palestinian/ Muslim. Israel assuming the security responsibility on the outside of the gates that were in the hands of the Waqf personnel until now is viewed as breaking the status quo.

The Fatah sources assured that the moment these magnetometers would be removed, the city will return to normalcy, but the dispute will still stir anger and hurt pride that could lead to individual terror attacks.

This video clip filmed on July 17, 2017, shows a large demonstration at the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, far smaller than Turkey’s calls for “a million-strong” demonstration on the scale that overturned the attempted Turkish coup d’état last year. The demonstration was devoid of Palestinian organizational flags. Political activist Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian NGO community in Ramallah, is trying to fill the vacuum created by the PLO hesitancy.

Other matters concerning the status quo are reports that the Jerusalem municipality sent cleaning crews to clear the Mount’s esplanade – an action normally the responsibility of the Waqf. Also, Jewish “settlers” were allowed to enter the compound, for the first time without the Waqf personnel inspecting and escorting them.

Hence, if the Waqf insists on refusing to cross through the magnetometers to the compound until the devices are removed, it risks another change of the status quo—the municipality of Jerusalem will assume the role of maintaining the site and allowing Jews to enter the site with no inspection role for the Waqf.

Dilemma for Jordan and the Waqf

While the Waqf is a Jordanian-affiliated religious council, it could feel forced to take a harder line than Jordan’s position in the confrontation with Israel.

Another major concern of the east Jerusalem leadership is the importing of the conflict by individuals of Israeli Arab communities into Jerusalem, as was the case of the three terrorists from the Israeli Arab town of Umm al Fahm.

It should be noted that the tensions on the Temple Mount were not sparked by the east Jerusalemites but by Israeli Arabs, some possibly aided by Turkey.

The murder of the two Israeli Druze policemen exacerbated tensions in Israel between Druze and Muslims. In mixed Muslim-Druze cities, shots have been fired towards mosques. The three killers, suspected of being Muslim Brotherhood supporters, knew that they were targeting Druze. Have the Druze-Sunni tensions in Syria spread to Jerusalem?

In conclusion, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered the de-escalation of tensions in east Jerusalem which frustrated the local Fatah. The Waqf is in a real dilemma: if they accept the magnetometers, they recognize the Israeli responsibility on the outer side of the Haram walls, but if they insist on refusing to walk through them until they are removed, the Waqf will endanger the status quo inside the walls with Jewish visits without a Waqf presence.

In turn, Israel risks losing the Waqf as a partner in quietly balancing the delicate situations in Jerusalem.

Expert: Understanding Islamic Culture Is Key to Preventing Further Violence at Temple Mount – Alex Traiman (JNS.org)

The Israeli government reopened the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday with strict new security measures, in the wake of Friday’s attack by Arab terrorists who killed two Israeli police officers. Israeli defense experts stress that such attacks are likely to occur again.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence, noted that the Temple Mount has long been a source of radical Islamic incitement against Israel and the U.S.  “There are hundreds of recordings of sermons from the Temple Mount, replete with violence, replete with incitement against the Jews, against Israel.”

In Muslim doctrine, Islam “cannot exist side by side” with another religion, and “within Islam there is only the concept of one religion being dominant over the other….Islam, as a religion, cannot accept a Jewish state. They view Judaism as a threat on Islam.”

While murderous acts are considered unholy by Jews and Westerners, acts of martyrdom can be considered holy in Islamic culture.

Understanding Islamic culture is a key to preventing further violence. “They are violent, but if they face an iron wall, they will retreat – once they understand that they cannot defeat us,” Kedar said. “The more determined Israel is in this regard, the better the chances that this round of violence will be short.”

For more than a decade, worshippers or tourists wishing to visit the adjacent Western Wall have been forced to pass through metal detectors, despite the fact that there have been no recently recorded incidents of Jews seeking to commit acts of terror at the site. Now these same measures are being installed on the Temple Mount.