West Bank Witnesses Worst Escalation in This Year

The images of the corpse of a newborn wrapped in a cloak of Jewish prayer in Jerusalem and the bodies of two young soldiers covered by blankets after two armed attacks have shocked Israeli society. The videos of the army patrols in the streets of Ramallah and the night raids in search of suspects have returned to the Palestinians the worst memories of the occupation.

The rebound of the armed actions and the consequent reprisals, in which five alleged attackers have been shot dead by security forces, have threatened for a week now to awaken a latent intifada in the West Bank and unleash another wave of uncontrolled violence in the oldest conflict in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who now also concentrates his defense portfolio, has ordered the troops to multiply the indefinite administrative detentions without the need for formal accusation or judicial intervention and to accelerate the demolitions of the houses of the perpetrators of the attacks.

Forty Palestinians, mostly linked to Hamas, according to the Israeli army, were arrested in the early hours of Friday in Ramallah and the surrounding area in a massive intervention by security forces.

The adjacent town of Al Bireh, where it is suspected that the perpetrators of the death of the two soldiers are hiding since Thursday, it was sealed by the troops. “Whoever attacks us will pay dearly,” warned Netanyahu, “and our enemies know this well.”

“Israel tries to frighten the Palestinian people with these patrols and raids,” he said at the Qalandia crossing – between Jerusalem and the West Bank – before a group of foreign journalists Nabil Sahat, international advisor to the Palestinian president.

“They are a violation of the Oslo Accords. In area A [West Bank area where Ramallah is located] the Israelis are prohibited from going without permission from the Palestinian Authority, which maintains the coordination of security. The Army has invaded the streets. It has been an imposed order and without negotiation. ”

The leaders of the more than 400,000 Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank immediately mobilized after Thursday’s deadly shooting at a bus stop near Highway 60. They have demanded that the government not allow Palestinians to pass through that road. from north to south the occupied territory. Settlers armed with assault rifles gathered at the scene of the attack while ambulances evacuated the two wounded: a soldier who is in critical condition and a civilian.

Settler leaders, such as the radical nationalist deputy Bezalel Smotrich, press Netanyahu to order deportation to the Gaza Strip of the perpetrators of the attacks. For now, the prime minister has offered them the legalization of more than 2,000 homes, built without authorization from the Ministry of Defense in 66 wild colonies in the West Bank.

The tension that has been triggered in recent days originated last Sunday in the settlement of Ofra, where armed men shot from a vehicle in a march to the Israelis who were at a bus stop at the foot of the same road 60. Among the seven bullets wounded was a seven-month pregnant woman, who had to undergo a cesarean section to save her life. The premature baby only survived until Wednesday.

“We fear for the safety of our children and our families,” acknowledges Aaron Lipkin, spokesperson for the Ofra settlement, “but that does not stop us from believing strongly that this is the promised land and the home of the Jewish people.”

With the conviction, based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, that God has given his people those hills and ravines, Lipkin argues that “the State of Israel must officially annex Judea and Samaria [biblical names of the West Bank] so that those who live in this area can lead a normal life. ” The Armed Forces are in a state of maximum alert in the West Bank and have deployed reinforcement battalions to protect the colonies.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Israelis expressed their mourning at the funerals of Yosi Cohen, 19, and Yuval Mor-Yosef, 20, of the two soldiers who were shot dead on Thursday in an attack in the West Bank. In the afternoon, the Palestinian Mahmud Najle, aged 18, fell down because of a shot by troops near Ramallah. Najle participated in one of the marches of a day of anger called by Hamas after the death, on Thursday, of four Palestinians accused of having carried out attacks.

The protests, which led to clashes with the army in the main cities of the West Bank, resulted in a hundred wounded protesters. On the Gaza border, the Ministry of Health accounted for 284 wounded, of whom 152 had to be hospitalized, including 75 with bullet wounds.

In a new attack in the West Bank, an Israeli soldier suffered serious injuries when he was stabbed by a Palestinian at the military checkpoint in Beit El, a Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah.

Security forces of the Palestinian Authority harshly repressed in Hebron and Nablus on Friday commemorative demonstrations for the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement Hamas, which since 2007 governs de facto in Gaza after having forcibly evicted the leaders of the Palestinian Authority of the Fatah secular nationalist party.

Hamas had obtained a clear victory at the polls in the legislative elections held in 2006. One of its electoral strongholds was then the city of Hebron.

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