Jerusalem calms down, but Hebron remains a ticking bomb
“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.
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