Palestinian teens kill one Israeli, wound another in West Bank supermarket stabbing
Two Palestinian teenage terrorists armed with knives went on a deadly stabbing spree in the Rami Levi supermarket in Binyamin’s industrial area on Thursday, murdering a 21-year-old Israeli and wounding a 36-year-old man, both of whom were shopping at the time.
The attackers, aged 14, from Beitunia near were Ramallah, were shout and seriously wounded by an armed civilian who reported hearing shouts and rushed over to stop the attack.
“When we got to the scene we saw, among the the supermarket rows, a 35-year-old man who was fully conscious with multiple stab wounds to his upper body,” Magen David Adom paramedic David Vakselboim said.
Israelis and Palestinians shop at the supermarket branch as customers and work in it.
Eye witnesses said the knife attackers had been wondering around the store for a while before going on a knife attack.
The 36-year-old victim was taken to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, while the 21-year-old was evacuated and later succumb to his wounds at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
The wounded 36-year-old, a resident of Tel Zion, is intensive care at Hadassah, where doctors listed him as being in moderate and stable conditions.
The IDF restricted access to the Binyamin industrial area following the attack, banning Palestinians, except those with work permits, from entering the area.
“A man returns from his day at work, stops to buy groceries for the Sabbath, and is taken away forever by murderous villains,” President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. “We will stand strong and respond firmly to restore calm and normality to the lives of our citizens everywhere. We will defeat terrorism.”
“At this time of anguish and heartache, I wish to offer comfort to the bereaved family, and my prayers for the quick recovery of the wounded.” (Jerusalem Post)
President Reuven Rivlin to pay state visit to Australia
President Reuven Rivlin will pay a state visit to Australia next month. He will be the third Israeli president to do so after presidents Chaim Herzog and Moshe Katsav.
Rivlin will travel via Hong Kong where he will meet with the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and other dignitaries, and then will proceed to Australia where he will meet with Governor General Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other major political figures.
Israel has a long relationship with Australia that goes back far beyond the establishment of the state. Australian troops were stationed in the Land of Israel during the First and Second World Wars, and Australia was the first country to vote ‘yes’ on the United Nations resolution for the partition of Palestine in November, 1947. Australia was also among the first countries to recognize Israel after the proclamation of the state and established diplomatic relations in January, 1949.
Trade relations between the two countries are strong and include bilateral investments and the supply of Israeli defense equipment to the Australian Defense Forces by Elbit Systems.
Rivlin is scheduled to leave Israel on March 13 and to return on March 22 just in time to celebrate Purim. (Jerusalem Post)
Report: Israel strikes Syrian army outposts south of Damascus, monitor says
Three Israeli rockets allegedly hit Syrian army outposts south of Damascus on Wednesday, reported the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.
Meanwhile, a pro-Syrian government military source denied reports that Israel carried out air strikes inside Syria
The IDF said it does not respond to such foreign reports.
Last week, Syrian media reported that the Israeli Air Force purportedly bombed a Syrian army ballistic missile base, as well as a Hezbollah military base on on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
According to the reports, the alleged strike took place in the town of Qutayfah, located in the eastern region of the Qalamoun Mountains, close to Syria’s border with Lebanon.
However, Hezbollah’s TV channel, al-Manar, denied the reports and claimed that “Israel did not launch attacks against bases of the Syrian army and the Resistance in the region of Qutayfah.”
Israel did not responded to the reports. (The Jerusalem Post)
Chief of Staff: I don’t want soldiers emptying magazines into scissor-wielding girls
Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, during a meeting with high school students in Bat Yam Wednesday, stated that he does not “want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors.”
Eisenkot discussed the various threats to the state, the rules of engagement during the current wave of terrorism and the subject of women in the military service. “We are dealing with four major threats today,” he enumerated. “Against conventional armies, which we have not confronted since 1973; the second threat is the Iranians; the threat of non-state terrorist organizations and the fourth threat is cyberspace.”
“Terrorism has accompanied Israeli society all throughout the years and knifings are nothing new. Young men and women in their teens, singles, most of them educated and not from poor families, pick up knives and carry out attacks,” Eisenkot explained.
Eisenkot refered to Islamic State and its influence on the wave of terrorism in the country.”There are mutual influences between ISIS in the Middle East to what is happening here. There are 10,000 to 15,000 young people who have left Europe to fight for the same idea. In the past, we worked against terrorist organizations with explosives manufacturers and terror laboratories. Knives, however, are found in every kitchen and in every home. The aim of terrorism is to spread fear and terror among the public, its success is in preventing citizens from going about their everyday routines.”
When asked by a student about the apparently soft rules of engagement in the West Bank, the Chief of Staff said: “A soldier receives a rifle or a rocket to take a human life, and the rules of engagement are derived from the task the force receives. We do not act according to slogans such as ‘whoever comes to kill you, kill him first’. A soldier can remove the safety and shoot if there is a danger to him or his comrades.
“The West Bank has thousands of troops operating amongst two million Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. We educate our soldiers to act according to the IDF’s ethics and spirit, and it is much easier to work with Syria or Lebanon in this matter. If we were to act in an unethical manner in our rules of engagement, it would pose a threat to the IDF. There were 170 terrorist incidents in recent months, and more than 100 terrorists were killed in situations in which the troops had split-second decisions to make. I would not want a soldier to unload an entire clip into a girl who is holding scissors. Our troops are moral and we know how to preserve this quality.” (Ynet News)
IDF chief’s call for restraint from soldiers causes stir
MKs from across the political spectrum on Thursday reacted to comments from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who on Wednesday called for a degree of restraint from Israeli security forces in the face of less extreme terror attacks, saying “I don’t want to see a soldier empty a magazine [to shoot] a young girl with scissors.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) slammed Eisenkot on Thursday in a complaint to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The right wing MK said that Eisenkot, who has served in the IDF for almost 40 years, was “degrading the sanctity of the IDF” in his call for a proportionate responses to ongoing threats.
Smotrich, 35, complained that Eisenkot’s remarks constituted “A flagrant and contemptuous statement, which must not pass without comment. (The comments) degrade the values that have accompanied us for thousands of years.” The letter did not specify which values Eisenkot was in breach of.
Eisenkot was speaking to soon-to-be conscripts at a high school in Bat Yam. When asked by a student about the proper response to attacks similar to those seen during the past few months, the army chief replied: “The IDF doesn’t need to get swept up in clichéd statements like ‘Kill or be killed’ or ‘Whoever comes at you with scissors needs to be killed.’ The tools that are at the soldiers’ disposal are sufficient,” the chief of staff said.
In support of the chief of staff, MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) said on Thursday to Army Radio that he was “proud” of Eisenkot, and said Smotrich’s position would in reality result in unnecessary deaths.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said Eisenkot was bringing a welcome return of values and rules of engagement, in a time where every man “does as he pleases.”
In recent months, more than 30 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians who have committed car-rammings, stabbings, and shootings in what is being called “the lone-wolf intifada” or “the knives intifada.”
Immediate steps by security forces in neutralizing the attackers have generated controversy, as some have argued that police and soldiers use excessive force in subduing the assailants. (Jerusalem Post)
Bayit Yehudi MKs join haredi bill banning Reform, Conservative use of mikvas
Four MKs from Bayit Yehudi have signed on to a bill proposed by United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev to circumvent a recent ruling by the Supreme Court allowing the Reform and Conservative movements to use public mikvaot for their conversion ceremonies.
The director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, called the legislation “absurd,” and expressed disappointment that MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Nissan Slomiansky had decided to support it, joined by two other Bayit Yehudi lawmakers, Bezalel Smotrich and Moti Yogev The issue stems from a 2007 ruling by the Beersheba Religious Council which refused a request by the Reform movement to use a mikve in the city for the immersion of a convert, following which the Reform movement filed a law suit against the religious council for discrimination.
Although a district court rejected the suit, ruling that the non-Orthodox conversions were private processes and not entitled to use state facilities, the Supreme Court found last week that preventing the Reform and Conservative movements from using the mikvaot was discriminatory and illegal.
Immediately following the ruling, Gafni said he would introduce legislation to prevent the non-Orthodox movements from using public mikvaot for their conversion ceremonies.
The legislation proposed by Gafni and Maklev states that mikvaot can only be used in accordance with Jewish law and in accordance with the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate.
It stipulates explicitly that preventing someone from using the mikve in accordance with the proposed legislation “will not be considered a crime or a civil injustice” as determined by the Law against Discrimination in Products, Services, Entrance to Recreational Facilities or Public Places (2000).
The national-religious lobbying group Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah said that the legislation would harm the rights of women to use the ritual baths, adding that religious services in general should be democratized and not subject to further centralized restrictions. Conservative movements strongly criticized the party and the MKs for failing to support their rights.
Until now, local religious councils which operate public mikvaot, which are funded jointly by the Religious Services Ministry and the local municipality, would not allow non-Orthodox converts to use these facilities.
After completing a conversion course and being accepted by a rabbinical court, converts must immerse in a mikve in front of a panel of three rabbinical judges to complete their conversion.
Kariv said the Reform Movement was “deeply disappointed to see the names of MKs Slomiansky and Moalem on this bill. MK Slomiansky is the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, but this bill goes against the most basic values of Israel’s laws and values. MK Moalem has carried with her the message of building bridges within Israeli society but this law does the opposite.”
Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah said that the bill, if passed, would further strengthen the control of the haredi parties over religious services.
“In signing Gafni’s bill the members of the [Bayit Yehudi] faction are doing injury to their own voters, half of whom are women, and they will be partners in a deterioration of the religion and state status quo.
“Mikvaot are an excellent example of a religious service that needs to undergo a process of democratization and the creation of less centralization which looks out for only one group.” (The Jerusalem Post)
Sparks fly as PA officials blame visiting UK MPs for entire Palestine conflict
A group of British lawmakers on a visit to the region clashed with senior Palestinian Authority officials Wednesday during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after a PA representative blamed the MPs, as Britons, for causing the entire Israel-Palestinian conflict.
A lunch meeting between a delegation from the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and veteran PA negotiator Nabil Shaath turned hostile, The Times of Israel learned, with Shaath and other Palestinian officials hurling accusations against the group for their implicit support of the 1923-48 British Mandate in Palestine. That was “years and years before I was even born,” said one of the MPs wryly later.
“There were certainly fireworks at that meeting,” said James Gurd, executive director of the CFI group, an advocacy organization that brings parliamentarians from the UK Conservative party on trips to Israel and lobbies for Israel in Westminster.
The current delegation, comprising nine conservative MPs, arrived in Israel on Sunday, participating in a range of strategic briefings and political meetings across the country.
Wednesday’s itinerary focused on the West Bank, with a tour of Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city; meetings with a number of Palestinian experts; and a lunch hosted by the PLO. The lunch, at which the parliamentarians were served falafel and pita bread, was attended by Shaath as well as Palestinian ambassador to the Vatican Issa Kassissieh and PLO executive committee member Hanna Amira.
John Howell MP, the vice president of CFI who is leading the delegation, said the topic of Rawabi triggered a tense debate.
“One of things we were trying to say was that if you had a number of Rawabis then perhaps you might have a more contented population,” Howell told The Times of Israel after the meeting. He was referring to the internal Palestinian debate over the virtues of the entirely new town, whose critics say building a modern, comfortable Palestinian city merely serves to normalize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
“But I think the real fireworks came from suggestion that the PLO would lose an election in the West Bank tomorrow to Hamas. That really put them at unease,” Howell said.
“The specific accusations that came out from the meeting were the attempt to blame us, as being ‘the British,’ for the entire situation in Israel and Palestinian territories as a result of having the Mandate, years and years before I was even born,” Howell said with a bitter half-laugh. “It’s such a naive view of things.”
Howell, who is visiting Israel for the fifth time, said he believes dialogue is the key to a long-term peaceful resolution, but Wednesday’s meeting made him question the viability of talks with the PA.
“It’s difficult to see that these people could be a basis for negotiation. I think there would have to be some agreement about how so many things in the world have genuinely changed before we can start talking.”
Earlier Wednesday, the group attended a ceremony marking the announcement by UK Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, currently visiting Israel on a trade mission, of new moves by the British government to discourage anti-Israel boycott activity in Britain. Under the new guidelines, “discrimination against Israeli suppliers” will be considered a breach of international trade agreements.
The proposal is the most recent in a series of actions by various governments to block efforts to boycott Israeli goods. Previous measures include a provision in the American Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act requiring non-cooperation with bodies that participate in the BDS movement.
The Palestinian Authority slammed the UK announcement, saying it “empowers Israeli occupation.” A statement released by PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the decision sends “a message of impunity” to the Israeli government.
“In order to accommodate the Israeli occupation, the British Government is undermining British democracy and their own people’s rights. Such a law would have prevented British citizens from taking peaceful actions against the South African apartheid,” the statement read.
Although the CIF trip was planned before the government trade mission and the plans to unveil the new guidelines, Gurd said the presence of the group at the announcement — along with the first cross-party delegation from the House of Lords to Israel, also visiting this week — sent a strong message of support.
“To have over 20 British parliamentarians in Israel at that announcement was very symbolic, and even historic,” Gurd said. “Israel can rest assured that its got friends fighting for it.”
But not everyone in the British Parliament welcomed the move.
A spokesman for Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Hancock of imposing Conservative Party policies and restricting local democracy and freedom of expression. “The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy,” he said.
Corbyn, elected as leader of the party in September, has been criticized by members of the UK Jewish community for being sympathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah — terror groups committed to destroying Israel — and is widely regarded as one of the British MPs most hostile to Israel. He has publicly endorsed a blanket arms embargo on Israel and the boycott of Israeli universities involved in weapons research.
John Howell said that while Corbyn’s opinions of Israel are far from mainstream in British politics, he thinks they are beginning the characterize the Labour party stance on Israel.
“I think that the Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude to Israel is almost unintelligible. It’s such a shame that he takes this attitude and it’s one that the Conservative Party does not share,” Howell said.
“If the man had come here to see the facets on the ground, I have no doubt he would have a different opinion,” Howell added. (The Times of Israel)
IDF launches smartphone alert app
After years of experiments and millions of shekels invested, the IDF is abandoning its old-fashioned method of cell phone alerts, launching a mobile app instead. The app became available for Android phone users last week, and was set to become available for iPhone users starting Tuesday night.
The new Home Front Command application will be able to send warnings for every launched rocket, with a person’s location taken into account in order to prevent false alarms. The app, which is of course free, is considered much more reliable than the previous cell-phone alert system, and is connected directly to the IDF.
This means that the app should be faster than public alert systems, potentially notifying users at least one second before public sirens go off. The Home Front Command also notes that it managed to send an alert four seconds faster than the non-IDF app Tseva Adom when a rocket was launched from northern Gaza towards the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council a few weeks ago.
The new app also provides guidance on what to do in case of an earthquake, general emergency instructions (also according to where one lives), and even provides immediate instructions in border-adjacent towns in cases of suspected terrorist infiltration.
A senior IDF officer admitted that the military decided to halt attempts at developing an early warning system for cell phones based on automatic mobile broadcast technology after a series of problems and failures were discovered during four years of experiments, exercises and efforts which are estimated to have cost millions of shekels.
In dozens of related drills conducted by the IDF in recent years, some civilians received warning messages dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Some manufacturers and cell phone companies refused to develop the technology, prompting the Ministry of Communications to intervene in a regulatory manner, which ultimately proved to be superfluous.
The Home Front Command’s efforts to improve its alert system by increasing the accuracy of location-based warnings continue, with the goal of pinpointing specific streets or neighborhoods in mind. This should enable civilians to continue with their daily routine when a rocket is launched towards populated areas. (Ynet News)
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) reveals the Drone Guard at the Singapore Airshow – new systems for drone detection, identification and flight disruption
The use of small drones has increased dramatically over the years, making them a potential threat to critical infrastructures, other aircraft and homeland security (HLS), due to their small size, low speed and low flight altitude. These drones may be used for a number of reasons, including hostile purposes such as intelligence gathering, smuggling, or as weaponized platforms. In addition, they are difficult to detect or disrupt due to their low visibility and low Radar Cross Section (RCS).
To meet this emerging challenge, ELTA, IAI’s Subsidiary, offers 3D radars and Electro-Optical (EO) sensors for detection and identification, as well as dedicated Electronic Attack (EA) jamming systems for disrupting drone flight.
To detect low signature, low-level and low-speed airborne targets, ELTA has adapted to this specific mission its 3D radars, for short (10 km), medium
(15 km) and long (20 km) ranges, respectively, as well as adapting them with EO sensors for visual identification of the target.
In order to disrupt the hostile UAV, ELTA has developed adaptive jamming systems which can be used in concert with its detection and identification sensors, or as a continuously operated stand-alone system. The jamming disrupts the drone’s flight and can either cause it to return to its point-of-origin (‘Return Home’ function) or to shut down and make a crash landing.
Nissim Hadas, IAI Executive VP and ELTA President said: “We have begun demonstrating these capabilities to potential customers, in response to this new threat. We believe that in the near future every critical asset and public site will require these safety measures for protection against hostile drones”. (Israel Defense)
Why did Nasrallah focus on Israel when Hezbollah is busy in Syria?
By Ariel Ben Solomon & Yaacov Lappin The Jerusalem Post
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah checked off all the boxes for harsh anti-Israel rhetoric during his speech, but his aim was to rally Shi’ite support behind him and even try to improve his group’s drab image in the Sunni Arab world.
He sought to embarrass Sunni Arab states by tying them to Israel because of their common goal in opposing Iran’s aggressive goals in the region.
And to hammer home the point that Hezbollah is the one standing up to Israel, not the Sunni Arabs, Nasrallah threatened on Tuesday night to hit large ammonia gas storage tanks in Haifa that he said would wreak damage and casualties equal to a nuclear attack.
“Do you accept a friend occupying Sunni land in Palestine? Can you become friends with an entity that has committed the most horrible massacres against the Sunni community? “You are free to consider Iran an enemy, but how can you consider Israel a friend and an ally? This issue must be confronted in a serious manner,” he said.
“This would be exactly like a nuclear bomb, and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” he said.
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay later said he had ordered the ammonia storage facility to be moved to the Negev.
Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post that Nasrallah wants “to shame the Sunnis and to mobilize the Shi’a base in solidifying the equation in their mind between Sunnis and Israel.
“This has become standard fare in Hezbollah rhetoric,” he said. “But I’m not sure the implicit choice he presented the Sunnis with – either an accommodation with Israel or acquiescence to Iranian hegemony – is something that works for him,” said Badran.
“And it’s not only because Turkey and Israel are in reconciliation talks, or that the Saudis clearly view Iran, and not Israel, as the major threat to them,” he added.
“It is also because Nasrallah has managed to make the small Shi’a community of Lebanon the blood enemies of their only two neighbors – the Syrian Sunnis and the Israelis – setting it on a perpetual war footing with both of them.”
Hezbollah is the most significantly powerful terrorist organization in Israel’s region, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told high school students in Bat Yam on Wednesday.
The IDF has succeeded in enforcing its deterrence against it, and in the past years “the Lebanese front has been a quiet front,” Eisenkot added.
Nasrallah has over the years built up a rocket capability that can reach the population of central Israel, the chief of staff added, describing Hezbollah as the principal enemy that the IDF trains against.
Nasrallah said that Hezbollah’s military might is preventing attacks by Israel, and Israel would not attack unless it knew it could win and in a short amount of time. He also accused Israel of planning to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying those plans have failed.
The Hezbollah leader also attacked Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which he said favored a prolonged war in Syria rather than agreeing to a settlement that would lead to Assad staying in power.
He said the talk that the two countries, which support insurgents fighting to topple Assad, were planning to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State was a pretext for them “to gain a foothold” there.
“The armed groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey did not deliver, so the motive is not fighting Daesh but to look for a foothold after all these disappointments that occurred so far,” he said.
“They want to come to find a foothold in the face of the other axis,” Nasrallah told supporters via a video link in a speech during the anniversary to commemorate the group’s late leaders.
“They are willing to take the region to a regional war or global war but not willing or ready to accept a real political and national settlement in Syria, see the level of hatred and malice,” he told supporters.
Jerusalem’s ancient Damascus Gate is at the heart of a modern wave of violence
By William Booth and Ruth Eglash The Washington Post
For centuries, the Damascus Gate has stood as the portal to the Old City of Jerusalem, opening onto a packed bazaar of souvenir shops, tea houses and falafel joints — and the holiest places for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
On Tuesday, a watchful Israeli sniper was perched in one of the gate’s stone turrets, swiveling his scoped rifle, as Israeli border police milled about the entrance, warily eyeing the passersby, a mix of Palestinian hipsters in the latest jeans, doing some shopping for their moms, and elderly Jewish rabbis with long gray side curls who were escorted through the gate by private security guards in flak jackets.
The tourists and pilgrims still come, but for locals, Damascus Gate is now a hot zone to be avoided, with squads of Israeli soldiers waiting in nearby buses and Palestinian teens frequently stopped, searched and sometimes led away.
For the past five months, a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis has marked a deadly escalation in the two sides’ long-running conflict. According to a count by The Washington Post, more than 27 Israelis have been killed in knife, gun and vehicular attacks; more than 160 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces, 110 while carrying out attacks and 50 during clashes.
The Damascus Gate has served as the backdrop — and the beacon — for at least 14 of those attacks.
Built in 1537 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Damascus Gate is one of seven access points leading into Jerusalem’s Old City. The entrance is often busy with passersby: Jews, Palestinians, tourists, pilgrims and soldiers. It has also been a scene of violence. (Jason Aldag,William Booth/Ruth Eglash/The Washington Post)
The latest occurred Sunday night when two Palestinian 20-year-olds wielding automatic weapons were shot dead in a brief gun battle at the gate, which sits in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem, just a block from bus stations and tram stops and close to Palestinian high schools. One was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces, and the targets were Israeli police, who were uninjured. On Monday, police arrested a teenage Palestinian girl wielding knives. Then on Tuesday, they detained a Palestinian man with a knife up his sleeve.
The gate seen today was built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537 on top of an earlier entry into the walled city that the Romans erected in the emperor Hadrian’s time. The Jews call it Sha’ar Schechem, or Nablus Gate. Arabs call it Bab al-Amud, Gate of the Column, for the obelisk left by the Romans.
Its English name reflects the fact that it faces north, toward Damascus. It may seem hard to believe amid today’s wars and divisions, but it was once possible to hop into a taxi in Jerusalem and get driven to the Syrian capital.
“It is the most beautiful gate of all,” said Ahmed Dandes, 48, who owns a small shop selling gentlemen’s trousers inside the gate. “It is the path of three religions,” a reference to the Jews’ Western Wall, Christians’ Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Muslims’ al-Aqsa Mosque.
“It goes by many names,” Dandes said. “Today we could call it ‘Gate of the Martyrs.’ Ten Palestinians have died.” He pointed. “Just out there.”
Rabbi Menachem Ben Yaakov, who works at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, in the Muslim quarter of the Old City not far from the Damascus Gate, passes through daily. Over the past few months, he has been accompanied by private guards hired to protect the rabbis and students at the yeshiva.
He said that he thinks the violence will eventually dissipate and that with the large contingent of police and soldiers, the area felt perfectly safe to him.
“I don’t feel threatened,” he said. “Jews should not be scared of going any place in Jerusalem. They have the security of the Great One — and Israeli security.”
The Palestinians at the gate eye the Jews, and the Jews eye the Palestinians, who say they are careful not to make any sudden moves. These days, Palestinian youths are ordered not to congregate on the stone steps leading to the gate.
“Every day, we come here after school. It refreshes our souls,” said Mutasem Afaneh, 15, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.
Asked why Palestinians chose the Damascus Gate as a site for attacks, the teen said, “Because this where the police harass and humiliate the girls and the boys.”
That is reason to grab a knife?
“For some,” Afaneh said.
The first incident in the immediate area happened on Oct. 4, when Palestinian teen Fadi Alloun was accused by nearby Israelis of attempting to attack them. The crowd chased Alloun into the central square, where he was shot by Israeli police officers who had responded to a call. Palestinians say Alloun was lynched. Israeli police said he had a knife. Since then, at least 11 Palestinians have been killed at the gate or at the nearby tram stop.
As the violence continues, the Damascus Gate has become a popular backdrop for journalists to film a visual seam in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the gate is “the most tense spot in the city.”
The high level of security extended even to journalists. On Tuesday, while conducting interviews at the Damascus Gate, Washington Post bureau chief William Booth and correspondent Sufian Taha were briefly detained by police on suspicion of causing incitement. The police later issued an apology, saying the suspicions were “without foundation.”
Shai Glick, nephew of the Jewish activist Yehuda Glick, who was shot and wounded last year after advocating that Jews be allowed to pray at a contested religious site in the Old City, blamed the recent wave of violence on one incident, a stabbing that took place near here on Oct. 2.
“The Muslims and Jews that come to this place are against the violence, and until four months ago it was all calm here, the market was full and the people were doing real business,” he said. “Then four months ago, a Palestinian teenager, not even from here, came and stabbed two people, killing them. After that, business has gone down by 90 percent and everyone is suffering.”
Anna Mazur and Yvgeny Fesenko, tourists from Kiev, Ukraine, said they arrived in Jerusalem two days ago and were planning 10 more days to tour the country.
“The situation here does not bother us at all. We have a similar situation in Ukraine,” Mazur said. “We don’t have Jews or Palestinians, but we have people fighting each other.”
William Ek-Uvelius, an activist from Sweden, said, “When I was here in March there was no sniper up there.”
His colleague Elin Jansson Holmberg, a human rights lawyer, said the two were in the country as observers for a peace program.
“We are trying to feel what the people here feel,” she said. “We understand that both sides are scared of each other.”
Myong Su, a religious tourist from South Korea, said she was not afraid to come to the Damascus Gate.
“There is nothing to be scared of here,” she said. “It is all in God’s hands. It is all written down when we will die.”
Hatem Ganam, 57, sells duffel bags and backpacks at a shop just inside the Damascus Gate. “All the tension, all the pressure, is concentrated right here. All the insults, humiliations, searches. All here. It is a terrifying atmosphere, I promise you.”
“Damascus Gate is our gate,” the Palestinian merchant said. “The more the Israelis pull, the tighter we hold on.”