Israel plans to step up arrests of suspected terrorists in the West Bank to prevent the simmering civil unrest in the region from escalating into a full-blown uprising, security sources say.
“There is a certain (Palestinian) awakening,” one source told AFP.
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“As a consequence a decision was taken within the security establishment to increase intelligence activity and arrests among members of Hamas or operatives against Israel,” he added. “It started in the past few days and will increase.”
On Tuesday, undercover Israeli troops attempting to arrest a suspected Islamic Jihad militant in the West Bank village of Tamnoun were pelted with rocks by an angry mob. The squad made their arrest, but Palestinian security sources said dozens were lightly injured in the clash. Three soldiers sustained mild injuries.
Ghassan Khatib, a veteran of the first intifada, who later became a Palestinian cabinet minister and now teaches at the West Bank's Birzeit University, said the current round of clashes was spontaneous.
The daily confrontations between the Palestinians and the security forces, as well as settlers, aren't "connected to any specific event," he posited. "It's been building up gradually.
“I think it's a result of the dangerous combination of a complete absence of any political horizon together with serious economic and financial crisis that is leading to increased unemployment and poverty,” he added, noting an increase in settlement activity.
The defense establishment has noted an upswing in clashes since November's eight-day battle between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It recorded 122 Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the West Bank, compared with 39 in October, and 44 incidents in Jerusalem, up from 31 the month before.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Palestinian youths seemed to be heavily involved in the unrest.
”In general there's been an increase in the number of incidents that have taken place, stone-throwing incidents as well as Molotov cocktails on the main highways,” he told AFP. “The majority of incidents take place in the morning when Palestinian children are on their way to school and in the afternoon when Palestinian children are returning from school,” he said.
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