Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett reaches out to Diaspora Jews on Passover
Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett explains to Jews abroad what Israel is doing to help them.The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has reached out to Jews abroad in a special animated YouTube video stressing the connection between Jews worldwide released for Passover.
Bennett explains the government’s programs designed to help Jews abroad, who he says are facing anti-Semitism, security threats, a loss of Jewish identity and a feeling of disconnections with their Israeli brethren.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has already set in motion a number of programs to help deal with these issues, Bennett says in the video, including “Com.unity,” which sends delegations abroad to study the challenges facing Jews, “Project Momentum,” which bring Jewish mothers to Israel, and the providing of assistance to Jewish refugees caught in war zones.
“Brothers and sisters, Passover commemorates the birth of the Jewish nation, a people committed to serving as a light unto the world. It is the light of liberty, unity, and freedom. When we stand united in these values, we are stronger and can provide our children with a future full of Jewish life and hope.I wish everyone everywhere a Happy and Kosher Passover,” Bennett concludes in the video.
Hamas claims responsibility for Jerusalem bus bombing
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has claimed credit for Monday’s bus bombing in Jerusalem, the group said on Wednesday.
Hamas released a statement announcing the death of the Bethlehem native who is suspected of detonating the explosive on the bus in southern Jerusalem.
The Islamist group said that Abdel Hamid Abu Srour, 19, a resident of the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, was one of its members. His father was arrested by the IDF on Wednesday.
The Hamas statement was made even as Israeli authorities have yet to confirm that the explosion was indeed a terrorist attack.
Despite numerous reports circulating that Abu Srour was the terrorist responsible for the attack, the Shin Bet and Police have not confirmed those rumors amid a strict gag order as of this writing.
Police continue to investigate who is responsible for the blast that wounded 20 other men, women and children.
Shaare Zedek Medical Center spokeswoman Shoham Ruvio said the man, who lost both legs in the explosion, died at approximately 7 p.m. following multiple surgeries, but that police and hospital staff have yet to ascertain his identity.
“We don’t know anything about him – his name, his age, anything,” said Ruvio on Wednesday night, adding that a 13-year-old girl and 34-year-old woman remain at the hospital in light-to-moderate condition.
Meanwhile, following a protracted investigation into terrorist activity in the flash point east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya, Border Police arrested 31 suspects during an early morning raid Wednesday that turned into a full-scale riot.
“Counterterrorism intelligence gathered over the last several weeks in connection with those suspects showed they possessed illegal weapons, participated in rioting, and numerous other serious disturbances,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
After identifying the dozens of suspects involved, heavily- armed officers entered the neighborhood on Mount Scopus at approximately 4 a.m. to carry out the arrests, he said.
However, shortly after arriving, a large group of masked Palestinians began throwing rocks at police, as well as a pipe bomb that exploded near the officers, although none were wounded.
Rosenfeld said it took the officers nearly two hours to disperse the rioters using stun grenades and other non-lethal means, and then carry out the arrests. No injuries were reported during the extended clash, he said.
Additionally, 18 other suspects living in the neighborhood were given court orders to appear for security offenses, he said.
Following the arrests, Amnesty International Israel released a statement claiming that police are utilizing heavy-handed collective punishment tactics in Isawiya, and arresting children as young as 10.
“Amnesty International Israel has expressed serious concerns about the Israeli police raid in the east Jerusalem village [sic] of Isawiya today,” the statement said.
“Evidence and reports that came to us raises concerns that police operations in the village [sic] are mainly intended for children and youth, designed to collectively deter residents by conducting arbitrary arrests in violation of international law.”
The left-wing human rights group also accused the police of damaging the property of several residents of the neighborhood.
“We urgently call for the release of detained minors and an independent investigation into the allegations of violations of the rights of residents there,” the statement continued.
Rosenfeld dismissed Amnesty International’s allegations, saying the raid was carefully planned and orchestrated, adding that no property was damaged.
“The police operations were planned ahead of time based on concrete intelligence on the suspects who were involved in terrorism and riots,” he said.
“There was no damage whatsoever caused to property, and police units left the area immediately after the suspects were arrested.”
Since the wave of attacks engulfed the capital last October, the vast majority of attacks against Jews and security personnel have been carried out by minors, some as young as 11.
During this time, Palestinians have carried out 211 stabbings, 83 shootings, and 42 vehicular attacks, killing 34 Jews, according to information on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Approximately 200 Palestinians have been killed by security forces over the same period, 130 of whom were said by Israel to have been conducting an attack at the time of their death.
The remaining 70 people died in clashes with Israeli security forces. (Jerusalem Post)
Amid fear of Hezbollah attack, IDF walls off section of Lebanon border
Fearing plots by Hezbollah to send gunmen into Israel to attack soldiers and civilians, Israel is gradually walling off further parts of its northern border with Lebanon.
Israel’s Channel 2 news on Wednesday showed sections of concrete wall being installed near to Kibbutz Misgav Am, a border community in the Upper Galilee.
It noted that a project to bolster the border area had been underway for some time.
In 2012, a seven-meter (23-foot) high wall separating Israel from Lebanon near the border town of Metulla was completed. The 1,200-meter-long (3,937-foot) wall is outfitted with sophisticated cameras and sensory equipment aimed at preventing infiltration. The 2006 Second Lebanon War began with a cross-border attack by Hezbollah.
Wednesday’s footage was broadcast two days after the Israel Defense Forces began a surprise military exercise in northern Israel.
Large numbers of aircraft, vehicles and IDF troops took part in the drill, which was designed to test the preparedness of the Northern Command, the IDF Spokesperson said in a statement.
Residents in the Golan Regional Council and in the Jordan Valley Regional Council were warned to expect increased movement of emergency forces and military vehicles throughout the week.
The drill is geared toward “maintaining competency and vigilance of the troops,” the statement said.
Since the beginning of 2016, Israel has conducted a series of military drills designed to test the preparedness of the army and emergency response teams.
The IDF also held a two-day general drill in and around the northern city of Safed at the weekend.
Amid fast-rising tensions along the border with the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Israel last week carried out its largest civilian drill near the Palestinian enclave since its 2014 war with Hamas, according to a report on Channel 2.
Israeli troops simulate an operation to overcome terrorists with hostages, in a drill at the dining hall at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Israeli troops simulate an operation to overcome terrorists with hostages, in a drill at the dining hall at Kibbutz Erez, near Gaza, April 14, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Medics, the fire department and civilian response teams simulated a Hamas incursion into Israeli territory, including an attack on an Israeli kibbutz near the border and the taking of hostages by terrorists. The exercise, which was held at Kibbutz Erez, included troops overpowering the terrorists in the community’s dining hall.
On Monday, Israel announced it had found a tunnel dug under the border from Gaza by Hamas. It destroyed the tunnel a day later.
And on Tuesday, the IDF announced it would complete a sophisticated new border for Gaza within two years. (The Times of Israel )
PA continues to advance UNSC resolution against Israel
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday denied that it has postponed its effort to seek a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to construction in the settlements.
The PA said that it was going ahead with its plan to obtain the resolution, but did not say when it would do so.
The PA Foreign Ministry said that the Palestinians were containing their consultations with Arab and “friendly” countries, as well as regional parties, about the proposed resolution.
The ministry denied a report in an Israeli media outlet that claimed that the Palestinians have decided to suspend their bid at the Security Council.
The ministry said that although the Palestinians were taking into consideration the views of various countries that are supportive of the Palestinian cause, the PA is totally convinced that heading to the Security Council is an important step.
The Palestinians are coordinating their efforts with relevant parties, especially France, regarding the Security Council bid, the ministry added. France recently presented an initiative to convene an international conference for peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinians say they want to avoid a situation where the Security Council bid contradicts the French initiative. The US and some Arab countries have reportedly wanted the PA against going to the Security Council.
The PA ministry claimed that Israel was trying to hinder the Palestinian bid at the Security Council. It said that there is a need for the Security Council to issue a resolution calling for an end to settlement construction, “in wake of the Israeli government’s refusal to abide by the signed agreements with the Palestinians.” (Jerusalem Post)
PM to Moscow to discuss Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Moscow on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for discussions expected to focus on Syria.
This will be the two leaders’ third face-to-face meeting in seven months. During this same time period Netanyahu has met US President Barack Obama once.
The main focus of the Kremlin parley, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, will be coordination to avoid accidental incidents between Israeli and Russian forces acting in Syria. Netanyahu and Putin established a mechanism to avoid conflict, when Netanyahu flew to Moscow in September, soon after Russia began its active military engagement in the fiveyear- old Syrian civil war.
Netanyahu’s retinue will include OC Air Force Maj.-Gen Amir Eshel; Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who will serve as translator; deputy National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel; military attaché Brig.-Gen Eliezer Toledano; and bureau chief David Sharan.
In addition to the mechanism to avoid conflict, the talks will concern the future of Syria, and the Syrian peace conference taking place in Geneva.
Netanyahu is expected to reiterate what he said Sunday when he held a cabinet meeting on the Golan Heights – that Israel will not relinquish the strategic plateau.
He is also expected to reiterate Israel’s position that any future agreement in Syria must include the removal of Iranian, Hezbollah and Islamic State forces now stationed in the country.
Netanyahu is also expected to raise the issue of Russian arms sales to Iran, as well as preventing the transfer of state-of-the-art weaponry to Hezbollah. (Jerusalem Post)
Shin Bet says it broke up Jewish terrorism cell
The Shin Bet announced on Wednesday that it had broken up a Jewish terrorist cell that carried out a series of seven attacks on Palestinians in the Gush Telmonim area of the northern West Bank.
According to a statement by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), six members of the cell were behind a series of terrorist and arson attacks on Palestinian homes in the second half of 2015.
“The intelligence we gathered around these attacks pointed to the existence of a Jewish terrorist organization in Nahliel, in western Binyamin,” the Shin Bet stated. It added that, following a “lengthy intelligence effort, the Shin Bet exposed the organization.”
The investigation began at the start of April, involving teams from the Shin Bet and the nationalist crimes division of the Judea and Samaria district police.
Suspects who were taken into custody “confessed to carrying out widespread terrorist activities, which included attempts to harm inhabited Palestinian homes, attacking minorities, arson, and vandalizing Palestinian vehicles,” the Shin Bet added. The suspects allegedly also hurled rocks from a passing vehicle at Palestinian cars.
Suspects were led to the scenes of their crimes and reenacted them for investigators, security forces said.
The Shin Bet described the organization as “extreme and violent, which systematically harmed Palestinians and their property, with full knowledge that human lives could be harmed, even after the result of the [fatal] arson attack on a home in Duma [in which Palestinian parents and their baby were murdered last year].” The Duma attack acted as an “inspiration,” the Shin Bet said.
It listed six suspects, two of them minors, and one of them, a 19-year-old IDF soldier, as forming the cell.
According to the investigation, the suspects were behind an attack on a farmer with sticks and tear gas last summer, the firebombing of a home in the village of Mazra Kabaliya at night, when family members were asleep inside, and the spray-painting of the words “death to Arabs” and “Jews wake up” on their walls.
“The firebomb miraculously bounced off the wall of the home, averting a major disaster,” the Shin Bet said.
In December, the suspects allegedly threw IDF gas grenades at night at a home in the village of Bitilu, to “avenge” the arrests of suspects for the Duma arson attack.
In that attack, “the father of the family woke up from the noise and felt difficulty breathing, as well as stinging eyes.
He immediately evacuated his wife and baby son from the home. His quick response and awareness prevented serious harm to the baby,” the Shin Bet said.
Several Palestinian cars were torched in recent years by the suspects, security forces added.
Central District prosecutors will, in the coming days, charge the suspects with terrorism offenses.
The Gush Telmonim cell joins the “rebellion” movement that was active in recent years, the Shin Bet said. Both acted out of an “extremist ideology and a readiness to harm Palestinians, to the point of murdering them.”
Intelligence shows a link between the Nahliel cell and members of the Samaria hilltop youth far-right activists, who are members of the “rebellion” movement, the Shin Bet added.
Some members of the cell received administrative banning orders before the investigation began. The Shin Bet said it had prevented severe acts of violence as part of a wider effort to thwart Jewish terrorism over the past year.
Honeinu blasted the Shin Bet and the state for what it called illegal and heavy-handed conduct in blocking some of the case’s suspects from meeting with lawyers for more than two weeks, and keeping others in full detention.
The NGO, which represents mostly right-wing activists, and the state prosecution have had several court fights over the state’s preventing the suspects meeting with lawyers and over extending the detention, most of which the state has won.
However, on Wednesday Honeinu said it beat the state in Lod District Court after the state appealed a Tuesday order from the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court to release two suspects the day after they were arrested. The court did not provide a transcript since aspects of the investigation are still under gag order.
Honeinu trumpeted the victory as a sign that the state’s aggressive policies during the interrogation have been unfounded, and that the two who were released after the court found their involvement in the suspected crimes was “marginal” were intentionally arrested only to intimidate them.
Honeinu complained that only five of 10 suspects have been released, and that five additional suspects in detention for around three weeks – including an IDF soldier – were prevented from meeting with their lawyers.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that in the current investigation, unlike the Duma murder investigation, no torture or “moderate physical pressure” was used.
No official announcement was made about why no such pressure was used in the current investigations.
However, there were indications that it related to the level of evidence investigators were able to obtain in the current investigation which they did not successfully obtain in the Duma investigation prior to using physical force.
Honeinu’s Eran Shoretz said that the state had crossed a line in this case by preventing Jews suspected of crimes that were not as dangerous as Duma and certainly not “ticking bombs” from meeting with their lawyers.
He cautioned that the state is making the definition of “security” detainees and the extreme measures that can be applied to them so broad that it will spin out of control.
The Post learned that the Justice Ministry does view the crimes of which the detainees are suspected of as security offenses, both because they involve allegations of arson, using gas grenades and violence, and because their acts could inflame a wave of further violence with the Palestinians.
Section 35 of the Criminal Procedure Law lists the conditions where the state may prevent suspects from meeting with lawyers for “security crimes.”
An order to extend the postponement of a prisoner’s right to meet with a lawyer beyond 10 days requires the signature of both the attorney-general and the president of the relevant district court. The two officials must first holding a hearing at which a senior police or Shin Bet official appears to justify the need to deny the client-lawyer meeting.
But Shoretz said that in the past this has only applied to Palestinian terrorists who were considered ticking bombs, and that it should not apply to Jews who are not ticking bombs. (Jerusalem Post)
Foreign Ministry protests countries that voted for UNESCO resolution
More than a week after UNESCO’s executive board voted in favor of a resolution ignoring Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall area, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold wrote a letter to the 33 countries that voted for the resolution “registering Israel’s protest in the strongest terms.”
Gold’s letter came five days after Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid penned a sharp letter of protest to UNESCO head Irina Bokova.
Among the 33 countries that voted for the resolution were a number of countries with whom Israel has close ties, such as China, Egypt, France, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain and Vietnam.
Two other EU countries, Slovenia and Sweden also voted for the resolution, as did Argentina, with whom Israel expected there to be dramatic improvement of ties following last year’s elections.
Six countries voted against the resolution – Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US – and 17 abstained.
In the letter sent to his colleagues, Gold called the resolution “outrageous” and said it is “part of a disturbing trend that seeks to deny the deep-rooted links between the Jewish people and the State of Israel, with their historic capital.”
Gold noted that the term “Temple Mount” was expunged from the text and replaced with only a reference to al-Aksa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif.
“Even the Western Wall, the Jewish people’s most sacred site after the Temple Mount, is referred to by UNESCO in quotation marks, as though it is not commonly accepted language, while clear preference is given to call it instead al-Buraq, recalling the Islamic tradition alone,” Gold wrote.
Gold noted that every aspect of Jewish tradition was presented in the resolution as fiction, referring to “Jewish fake graves,” and “so called Jewish ritual baths.
“Under Israeli administration, people of all faiths have been able to enjoy access to their holy places in Jerusalem for the first time in decades,” he wrote.
“Far from recognizing and supporting this vital principle of mutual respect between faiths and peoples, this resolution only serves to undermine it.”
Meanwhile, Bokova sent a letter of response to Lapid on Wednesday, distancing herself from the decision.
“This decision was made by the economic council and the management council of UNESCO, which are both management bodies, and was not made by me,” she wrote.
“I published a statement immediately after the council meeting ended where I said, ‘Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. Nothing should be undertaken to alter its integrity and authenticity. It is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, whose history has shaped the history of all humanity. Only respect and dialogue can build the trust we need to move forward – this is the strength of UNESCO, for the benefit of all.’”
She also noted that she has said in the past the UNESCO must not be politicized. (Jerusalem Post)
US Army tests Iron Dome interceptor missile against drones
The US Army this week carried out a first successful trial of an interceptor air-defense missile made by Israeli defense company Rafael.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said the US Army fired the Tamir interceptor – which is used by Iron Dome batteries in Israel to shoot down Gazan rockets – at a target drone.
“This is the first time that a trial of the Iron Dome interceptor against a drone target was held on US soil,” the company stated.
The Tamir, a multi-mission interceptor, struck and destroyed its target, Rafael added.
Lt.-Col. Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the interceptor program in the US Army, said the successful trial was part of a program examining several air-defense options.
The trial was conducted with the cooperation of major US defense contractor Raytheon.
“Ahead of the launch, special adaptations were made to the Iron Dome interceptor, so that it fits the launcher,” Rafael added. (Jerusalem Post)
ANZAC Museum cornerstone set in Beersheba
The cornerstone for the ANZAC Museum in Beersheba has been set at a ceremony attended by JNF officials from Australia and the Australian ambassador to Israel.
The ANZAC Museum will commemorate the history of ANZAC through the personal stories of the combatants.
The conquest of Beersheba by the Mounted Division of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and the British Armed Forces was one of the major victories in the conquest of the land of Israel from the Ottoman Army. The ANZAC Museum, which is now being built in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Beersheba with a contribution from JNF Australia, will commemorate the history of ANZAC through the personal stories of the combatants.
The cornerstone ceremony for the museum was attended by the Mayor of Beersheba, the Ambassador to Israel from Australia and senior executives from KKL-JNF and JNF Australia. The inauguration of the museum is expected to take place on October 31, 2017, the exact date of the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Mounted Division’s historic charge and conquest of the city.
“The history of the ANZAC Mounted Division is the history of us all,” said Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich. “Buried in this cemetery are heroes who saved the entire world. We are committed to our past and are realizing the vision with support from our wonderful partners.”
More than any other place, Beersheba symbolizes the determination of ANZAC and the bravery of its cavalry. After sustaining great losses in their attempt to conquer Gaza, British General Edmund Allenby decided to conduct a surprise attack on Beersheba. The ANZAC Mounted Division was sent to outflank the enemy and attack the city from the East. The ANZAC cavalry stunned the Turks positioned in their trenches, when they charged above them and attacked them from the rear. It was the last charge of a mounted brigade in the history of modern warfare.
JNF Australia President Peter Smaller said that the conquest of Beersheba was the turning point that led to the end of World War I. “We are excited to be here today to lay the cornerstone of the museum,” he said.
In his greetings, HE Dave Sharma, the Ambassador to Israel from Australia, stressed the strong connection between the two countries: “The museum being built will help teach the younger generation about the Australians and the Israelis, about the connection between our two nations for more than a hundred years. Australia has stood by Israel in its struggle for the right to exist as the State of the Jewish people.
The exhibition at the ANZAC Museum is to include pictures, video clips and historical documents, as well as the soldiers’ personal effects and letters. Visitors at the exhibition will be ascending in a very slow elevator, unawares, and the doors will open onto an observation deck where they can view the cemetery in silence.
There are 174 Australian combatants buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Beersheba, 31 New Zealanders and over a thousand British soldiers. All of them fell in the line of duty in the vicinity of Beersheba during World War I. Among them is also one Jew, whose grave is marked with a Star of David.
As he stood gazing at the ANZAC graves, KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Mike Nitzan said: “These heroes teach us about commitment and courage, about the bonds between nations and civilizations of East and West, which is precisely what KKL-JNF has been a part of for more than 115 years.”
The event was emceed by KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson, who is of Australian origin, himself. “All of us are deeply grateful to those soldiers, who fought far from their homes in order to uphold our way of life,” said Michelson.
The path of the ANZAC Mounted Division from the Gaza border to Beersheba, which is about 100 kilometers long, has been developed by KKL-JNF to commemorate the route they traveled. Information signs have been installed at selected points along the way. With pictures and explanations, these sites illustrate the experience of the ANZAC fighters and the epic battles they fought.
“The ANZAC Museum in Beersheba will honor the ANZAC fighters and their great sacrifice,” said JNF Australia CEO Dan Springer. “Future generations will learn here about the role they played in enabling the establishment of the Jewish State. This site will also affirm the close ties between Australia and Israel.”
After the speeches, it was time to lay the cornerstone. The representatives signed the convention, buried it and covered it with cement. Peter Smaller noted the importance of completing the project by the 100th anniversary of the conquest of Beersheba a year and a half hence, at which time distinguished delegations from Australia and New Zealand are expected to arrive at the site as well as many visitors. “Laying the cornerstone symbolizes the beginning of this building project,” he said, “and we are certain that Israeli determination and resourcefulness will enable us to accomplish the task.” (J wire)
Israel to give Jordan and Egypt intelligence help against Islamic State
Israel provides Jordan and Egypt with intelligence assistance in their fight against Islamic State, a senior Israeli military officer said on Wednesday, describing the U.S.-backed Arab neighbors as stable despite the insurgent threat.
Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. They are the only Arab countries to have treaties with Israel, a matter unpopular with many Egyptians and Jordanians and which generally keeps Amman and Cairo quiet about the ties.
Major-General Yair Golan, deputy commander of the Israeli armed forces, said in a briefing that the countries were working with Israel as they try to beat back Islamic State.
“Egypt fights the Islamic State in the Sinai peninsula. Jordan is terrified by the presence of the Islamic State in Jordan’s cities and towns. And we try to work with them in order to contribute something to their security,” he said.
The help, Golan told the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, came “mainly by providing our intelligence, and you do know that while fighting all sorts of insurgency, intelligence is the most important element in the whole system”.
Despite deeming this military cooperation as unprecedented, Golan cautioned: “I wouldn’t describe that as some sort of reconciliation between the people. But it is a good starting point and I’m quite optimistic concerning that.” The Israeli general described Jordan as stable, though it has seen major refugee influxes from Syria and Iraq even as it watches those frontiers for Islamist militant infiltration.
Egypt’s large population and economic struggles during recent political chaos present a greater challenge, he said.
“I am quite optimistic about the future of Egypt, but I think that we are going to experience, or they are going to experience, you know, a crisis along the way,” Golan said. (Jerusalem Post )
After six months of violence, Palestinians wonder: What was gained?
by William Booth The Washington Post
After six months of attacks by Palestinian youths against Israeli soldiers and civilians, authorities have begun to hope the wave of violence is subsiding.
What did the Palestinians gain?
Funerals, many say.
No village in the West Bank generated more attackers per capita than Saer, a farm town of 20,000 people famous for its quarries and grapes in the hills east of Hebron, where everyone knows each other.
Some Palestinians began calling Saer the “capital of martyrs.” Israeli intelligence officials branded it a hotbed of a new kind of terror, pursued not by armed organized militants but by frustrated young “lone wolves,” goaded by official incitement and social media, and motivated by revenge, nationalism — and personal problems.
’A new kind of terrorism in Israel View Graphic
Over a three-month period, 11 teens and young men from Saer left home to try to attack Israelis, according to military officials. They were killed by security forces during the attempts. One extended family buried five people. In addition, a young man from Saer was killed during an undercover raid at a hospital by Israeli special forces disguised as women and patients.
None of the attacks launched by the men in Saer achieved their presumed goal — the death of an Israeli soldier or Jewish settler.
“We’ve lost enough sons,” said Awni al-Jabbarin, the father of 20-year-old Muayyad, who was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers after he lunged at them with a knife at a highway junction.
Asked what the death of his child meant, the father stared off into the distance. “It achieved nothing,” he said.
He added, “I pray to God he is the last son of Saer to die.”
More than 180 Palestinians have been killed in the past six months — 130 in attacks or attempted assaults against Israelis and 50 during riots and clashes, with increased use of live fire by Israeli forces presiding over a 49-year military occupation.
In the same wave, Palestinians killed 29 Israelis, along with four foreign nationals, including two visiting Americans.
An Israeli firefighter walks next to a burnt bus in Jerusalem, April 18, 2016. The bus exploded in the heart of Jerusalem Monday, wounding more than a dozen people and raising fears of a return to the Palestinian suicide attacks that ravaged Israeli cities a decade ago. (Oded Balilty/AP)
Israeli officials say it is too soon to declare an end to the six-month surge in violence. A bus bomb exploded in Jerusalem on Monday, injuring 21 people, two seriously. Authorities branded it a terrorist attack; investigators are searching for clues about who planted the device and why. The Passover celebrations are approaching, when tensions often spike, especially around access to a holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City that is sacred to Muslims and Jews.
Still, the trend suggests the flames may be burning down to embers.
According to Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, there were 20 significant attacks in March compared with 78 in October. This month, there have been four.
The most recent deadly Palestinian attack occurred during Vice President Biden’s trip to Israel last month, when an American combat veteran, Taylor Force, 28, was stabbed to death as he strolled the seaside promenade in Jaffa while visiting Israel on a school trip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “strong, responsible and methodical policy” has led to the decline.
Israel’s domestic intelligence service credited counterterrorism operations, including pressure on the militant group Hamas, widespread arrests and selective punishment of restive villages such as Saer, whose main entrance was closed to traffic.
The agency chiefs also said that Israel’s military sought not to disrupt everyday life for the mass of ordinary Palestinians — and so they allowed Palestinians with work permits to continue to commute from the West Bank to their jobs in Israel.
In the early months of the violence, there were especially large crowds at funerals and at Friday clashes with Israeli soldiers. But the numbers have steadily dropped.
“The atmosphere has changed. The people are tired,” said a senior Israeli commander in the West Bank who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Palestinians are understanding there is no efficiency in these terror attacks,” he said. “Most of the attacks do not succeed, and most of the time the Palestinian is arrested, wounded or killed, and no Israeli is hurt.”
The domestic security agency and the military say that Palestinian security forces helped reduce the attacks, although Israeli politicians tend to play that down.
The Palestinian intelligence chief, Majid Faraj, told Defense News in January that his security forces had foiled 200 attacks against Israelis over a three-month period.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2, said his police were entering classrooms and searching for weapons.
“In one school, we found 70 students with knives, and we told them that this was wrong,” Abbas said. “I told them: ‘I do not want you to kill someone and die. I want you to live and for others to live, too.’ ”
Israeli leaders, though, have complained that Abbas, alongside official Palestinian media and schools, stokes hatred of Israelis and encourages the attackers by celebrating them as martyrs.
“I admit that we have incitement,” Abbas told Israeli TV viewers, “but you also have incitement.”
Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have walked a fine line, neither condemning the attacks nor generally encouraging them.
The assaults against Israelis were popular in the early months. But they are less so now.
Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reported that his latest polling in March found “a significant drop” in the support for lone-wolf stabbing attacks compared with his December survey. Now, a majority is opposed to such assaults, even as a growing number support organized armed attacks by militias to gain national rights.
What motivated the young men of Saer to stalk Israelis remains a subject of debate.
Some Israeli politicians say that the Palestinians are driven by bloodlust and want to kill Jews.
But the Israeli military found that most of the attacks were directed at soldiers and police — at symbols of the occupation — and not at civilians. That does not change the fact that most of the Israelis killed in the knife, gun and vehicular attacks were civilians, , including old men and a mother stabbed to death in her kitchen.
In a recent summary, Shin Bet concluded that although some of the attacks were inspired by “nationalistic motives,” most were carried out for “personal reasons,” driven by “economic or personal hardships.”
Funerals beget funerals, the Palestinians say, and among the dead in Saer were five from the extended Kuwasbeh family, three from the Shaladeh family and two from the Jaradet family. So it is likely that revenge also motivated some.
But there may be other reasons, too.
People in the town say that some of the young men had money problems, marriage woes or felt abandoned by their families. In Islam, suicide is a grave sin, but to die in an attack against the Israelis creates a martyr who is honored by mass funerals, murals and payments to the surviving families.
The family of Muayyad Jabbarin found a letter he left behind, according to the Maan news agency.
It read: “Please forgive me mom and dad. I will kill two Israeli soldiers and take revenge for all the Palestinians they killed. Mom! Do not be sad! Your son died a hero.”
“The village just wants quiet now,” said Hassan Froukh, whose son Fadi, 27, was killed in a stabbing attempt, just a few weeks after the birth of his first daughter.
“Enough is enough,” he said.