Photo: AP
Characterizing the violence as an 'Intifada' could bring IDF greater freedom of movement
Photo: AP

Wave of Palestinian attacks evokes Intifada debate

Israeli security services report 167 attacks in December; Palestinian officials say increase in violence coming from Israeli side. INNS Official says IDF careful not to use term 'Intifada', but people are definitely getting nervous

An Israeli civilian contractor for Israel’s Ministry of Defense was killed by a sniper as he worked to repair the border fence along the Gaza Strip that had been damaged by last week’s storm. The fence had collapsed in three places.


After the shooting, Israeli jets struck targets inside Gaza and Palestinian medical sources said an 18-year old man was wounded by Israeli army fire.


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The IDFIsrael Defense Forces – then sent additional forces to the Gaza border. The Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported that Hamas, which controls Gaza, ordered the evacuation of all of its bases and installations, fearing Israeli reprisals.


It was the third attack on Israelis in a week, and raised the level of anxiety in the Jewish state. On Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli policeman at a junction north of Jerusalem; and on Sunday, a pipe bomb exploded on a bus in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.


There were no injuries because an alert passenger informed the driver of the suspicious bag and the bus was evacuated before the blast.


Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said police have increased their presence and are prepared for further attacks.


“After the past 24-hours and the increase in attempts as well as terrorist attacks that have taken place, we’re calling on the public to be more aware of suspicious people and objects and to contact Israeli police if they see anything suspicious,” Rosenfeld told The Media Line.


"I would say the attacks have been sporadic and carried out by terrorists who haven’t planned the attacks but took advantage of situations that arose.”


According to the Israeli security service, the number of attacks is on the rise. In July, there were 82 Palestinian attacks and attempted attacks; in August 99 incidents; in September 133; October 136; and last month a jump to 167.


Over the past four months, two Israeli soldiers and one civilian have been killed in the areas that Israel acquired in 1967, and a soldier stabbed and killed on a bus. The defense contractor was the most recent casualty.


Yet both Israeli officials and commentators are hesitant to use the word ‘Intifada’ or “popular uprising” to describe the latest round of attacks.


The first Intifada, which began in 1987, consisted of attacks with stones and Molotov cocktails.


The second Intifada, which began in 2000, was far more deadly for Israelis, typified by dozens of suicide bombings on public buses and carnage in the streets.


“The word ‘Intifada’ has a connotation which is not good,” Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert on Israeli public opinion at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank in Tel Aviv told The Media Line.


“It brings back bad memories. More than one thousand Israelis were killed (in the second Intifada). The Israeli army is careful not to use the term, but people are definitely getting itchy and nervous.”


Terrorism experts agree that, at least so far, most of the attacks seem to have been done by individuals, and not by order of Hamas, or any other Palestinian terrorist organization operating in the West Bank. That makes the attacks more difficult to predict and stop.


Characterizing the violence as an “Intifada” could bring the Israeli army greater freedom of movement, as it did in entering Palestinian cities during the second Intifada.


However, it could also raise public expectations that the army will crack down hard to stop the violence.


“Size matters,” Shlomo Brom, also from the INSS and a long-time senior Israeli military official told The Media Line. “The question of whether a few people are injured and killed or dozens is a big difference.”


At the same time, he said the number of incidents could be the precursor of another Intifada, as Palestinians grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress toward a Palestinian state. US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to present both Israelis and Palestinians with a framework agreement next month.


Palestinian media say they believe Kerry’s ideas will not be acceptable to them and the talks will fail. Some suggest that the growing number of terrorist incidents could be expressing this frustration. Kerry himself recently came under criticism when he suggested that the alternative to his peace plan is “the third Intifada.” Some called his remarks “reckless.”


Despite the increase in attacks, cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services is continuing. Palestinian police stop dozens of attacks on Israel each month, and Israelis who wander into Palestinian-controlled towns are returned unharmed.


Palestinian security officials say the increase in violence is coming from the Israeli side. Israeli fire has killed 14 Palestinian in the past four months, often during arrest raids.


“There is no proof that the perpetrators in the recent attacks were even Palestinians,” Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security forces told The Media Line. “Israel is using the recent attacks for political gain, while Israeli troops attack in Palestinian cities.”


Israeli expert Yehuda Ben Meir, who is also a psychologist, says that the recent bomb on the bus will have the most resonance for Israelis, even though there were no casualties.


“It was in Bat Yam, in the heart of Israel, and people saw the pictures of the bus with all of the windows blown out and it had an effect,” he said. “We still have not crossed the threshold to the feeling of an Intifada, but if the violence continues, that could change. It will depend on events over the next weeks.”


Article by Linda Gradstein


Reprinted with permission from The Media Line



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פרסום ראשון: 12.25.13, 00:06
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