Jerusalem calms down, but He­bron re­mains a tick­ing bomb

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

“THINGS ARE quiet right now, but it could blow up any sec­ond,” says an IDF com­man­der driv­ing his ar­moured jeep through one of the Pales­tinian vil­lages that make up the sub­urbs of He­bron.

As the wave of vi­o­lence that has swept Is­rael and the ter­ri­to­ries for nearly two monthsseem­sto­beeb­bing,He­bron­has be­come a hot spot of con­fronta­tion.

Jerusalem, the fo­cus of most of the at­tacks and clashes last month, is calm- ing down. Road­blocks, erected at the ex­its of Pales­tinian neigh­bour­hoods, are be­ing re­moved.

How­ever, the num­ber of stab­bings in He­bron has risen over the past three weeks and Pales­tini­ans cross­ing into Is­rael il­le­gally to carry out stab­bings are now more likely to be from its sur­rounds than from East Jerusalem.

The 19-year-old, who stabbed and wounded three passers-by — in­clud­ing an 80-year-old woman — in Ris­hon leZion on Mon­day, was from He­bron.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ad­mit that there is no way to pre­vent ev­ery in­di­vid­ual with a knife from at­tack­ing civil­ians or to her­met­i­cally seal off parts of the West Bank from the rest of Is­rael.

To the south of He­bron, there are long sec­tions of the sep­a­ra­tion fence that can be eas­ily breached be­fore a pa­trol ar­rives. Be­sides, the army’s strat­egy now is to al­low large num­bers of Pales­tini­ans — around 120,000, half of whom do not have per­mits — to cross over and work in Is­rael. “The great ma­jor­ity just want to work and live,” says one of­fi­cer. The hope is that the financial in­cen­tive will con­tinue to trump any es­ca­la­tion.

Mean­while, He­bron re­mains tense and a source of at­tack­ers. Of 69 Pales­tini­ans killed in this round of vi­o­lence, at­tack­ers and ri­ot­ers who were shot by se­cu­rity ser­vices, 30 came from He­bron and its sur­round­ing vil­lages, as do 40 per cent of Pales­tini­ans ar­rested in the West Bank dur­ing this pe­riod.

The rea­sons for this are not dif­fi­cult to di­vine. Like East Jerusalem, He­bron is a city where, ow­ing to the pres­ence of settlers in the en­claves and around the Tomb of the Par­tri­archs, there is daily fric­tion be­tween Pales­tini­ans, Is­raelis and IDF se­cu­rity forces.

It does not take an in­tifada to cause ten­sion in He­bron, which is also the one area in the West Bank where both Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had are still rel­a­tively strong. Now it is the place whose res­i­dents could de­ter­mine whether this round of vi­o­lence peters out or mush­rooms into a third in­tifada.

Is­rael boy­cotter: Conor Gearty

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