Is­raeli po­lice bar Pales­tini­ans from Jerusalem’s Old City

Se­cu­rity mea­sure a re­sponse to spate of at­tacks, which also killed Is­raeli-Cana­dian man

Toronto Star - - WORLD - DANIEL ESTRIN

JERUSALEM— A se­ries of grisly Pales­tinian at­tacks that killed sev­eral Is­raeli civil­ians has prompted the gov­ern­ment to take un­prece­dented se­cu­rity mea­sures amid grow­ing public de­bate over whether the spec­tre of another Pales­tinian in­tifada, or upris­ing, is on the hori­zon.

Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter vowed a “harsh of­fen­sive” to counter ris­ing vi­o­lence that has fo­cused in re­cent weeks over Jerusalem’s most sen­si­tive holy site sa­cred to both Mus­lims and Jews, in a se­ries of so-called “lone wolf ” Pales­tinian at­tacks against Is­raelis.

On Sun­day, Is­rael an­nounced that Pales­tini­ans would be tem­po­rar­ily barred from Jerusalem’s Old City, the first time Is­rael has taken this step since it cap­tured the Old City in the 1967 Mideast War.

The latest spike in vi­o­lence comes at a time when many Pales­tini­ans no longer be­lieve state­hood through ne­go­ti­a­tions with Is­rael is pos­si­ble. Is­raeli com­men­ta­tors have raised the pos­si­bil­ity of a third upris­ing, though Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas has so far pre­vented ma­jor out­breaks of vi­o­lence de­spite his grow­ing fric­tion with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

Is­rael’s lead­ing news com­men­ta­tor, Nahum Barnea, called the re­cent vi­o­lence the “Third In­tifada,” re­fer­ring to Pales­tinian up­ris­ings in the 1980s and the early 2000s. “Not call­ing it by name al­lows the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment to evade, re­press, shirk re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Barnea wrote in the Ye­diot Ahronot news­pa­per.

But Hani al-Masri, a Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, said it was not likely the start of a new upris­ing. “In­tifada needs a lead­er­ship and the Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is against it,” he said.

Ne­tanyahu con­vened an emer­gency meet­ing of top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials as soon as he re­turned to Is­rael Sun­day af­ter­noon from the United States. He re­port­edly asked the meet­ing if a third in­tifada is un­der way and was an­swered in the neg­a­tive.

Af­ter the meet­ing Ne­tanyahu said he or­dered “ad­di­tional steps to de­ter terror and pun­ish ter­ror­ists.”

He said that in­cludes “fast-track­ing the raz­ing of ter­ror­ists homes,” beef­ing up se­cu­rity in Jerusalem and the West Bank and “ban­ning those that in­cite (to vi­o­lence) from the Old City and the Tem­ple Mount.”

A Pales­tinian teenager stabbed and mod­er­ately wounded a 15-year-old Is­raeli early Sun­day in Jerusalem be­fore be­ing shot dead by an Is­raeli of­fi­cer. Rel­a­tives iden­ti­fied the teen as Fadi Al­loun, 19. A day ear­lier he wrote on his Face­book page: “Ei­ther mar­tyr­dom or vic­tory.”

Just hours ear­lier on Satur­day night, a Pales­tinian, Muhan­nad Hal­abi, at­tacked a fam­ily as they walked in the old city, killing the fa­ther, an Is­raeli-Cana­dian, se­ri­ously wound­ing the mother and lightly in­jur­ing their 2-year-old be­fore pro­ceed­ing to stab another Is­raeli man to death. The 19-year-old wrote on Face­book be­fore the at­tack: “What’s hap­pen­ing to our holy places? What’s hap­pen­ing to our moth­ers and sis­ters in the Al-Aqsa mosque? We are not the peo­ple who ac­cept hu­mil­i­a­tion. Our peo­ple will re­volt.”

Adele Banita, whose hus­band, Aaron Ben­nett, was killed and her 2- year-old child wounded in that at­tack, de­scribed the hor­rific as­sault.

She told Is­raeli media that she felt some­thing in her back and then saw the Pales­tinian as­sailant stab­bing her hus­band be­fore turn­ing round to stab her again. “There were lots of Arabs around look­ing . . . laugh­ing and smil­ing,” she said.

Af­ter she tried to help her hus­band she said she ran for help. Pales­tinian on­look­ers “spat at me and slapped me in the face. While the knife was still stuck in me they slapped me and laughed at me.”

She said she pleaded with them to help her 2-year-old child and was told by the on­look­ers to “die.”

The stab­bings were the latest in a se­ries of deadly Pales­tinian at­tacks. On Thurs­day, sus­pected Pales­tinian gun­men killed an Is­raeli cou­ple in front of their chil­dren as they drove in the West Bank.

An Is­raeli died when his car was pelted with stones last month and there have been nu­mer­ous in­ci­dents of Pales­tini­ans at­tack­ing Is­raelis and throw­ing stones at pass­ing ve­hi­cles.

Much of the re­cent vi­o­lence has stemmed from ten­sions at the sa­cred hill­top com­pound, a fre­quent flash- point and its fate is a core is­sue at the heart of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict. It is known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount, site of the two bib­li­cal Jewish tem­ples. Mus­lims re­vere it as the Noble Sanc­tu­ary, where they be­lieve the Prophet Muham­mad as­cended to heaven.

There have been sev­eral days of clashes at the site over the past few weeks as Pales­tini­ans bar­ri­caded them­selves in­side the Al-Aqsa mosque while hurl­ing stones, fire­bombs and fire­works at po­lice. The un­rest then spread to Arab neigh­bour­hoods of East Jerusalem and to the West Bank.

In re­sponse to the re­cent vi­o­lence, Is­raeli po­lice said they would pre­vent Pales­tinian res­i­dents of Jerusalem from en­ter­ing the Old City for two days dur­ing a Jewish hol­i­day. Pales­tini­ans who live, work and study within the Old City, as well as Is­raelis and tourists, will be al­lowed in.

Is­rael cap­tured the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war from Jor­dan, and later an­nexed the ar­eas. Pales­tini­ans claim East Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of their hope­d­for in­de­pen­dent state.

GIL CO­HEN-MA­GEN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Friends and rel­a­tives mourn over the body of Aaron Ben­nett, a 24-year-old Is­raeli-Cana­dian soldier who was killed when a knife-wield­ing Pales­tinian at­tacked him and his fam­ily in Jerusalem’s Old City.

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