Free Palestine Melbourne - Freedom and Justice for Palestine and its People.

Why the violence between Israel and the Palestinians may be entering a devastating new phase

by admin 0 Comments

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken rushed to the Middle East this week to make yet another push for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians following yet another dramatic escalation in violence between the two sides.

Blinken urged peace in his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, but the prospects could hardly be dimmer.

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of this year, mostly at the hands of Israeli security forces. And last Friday, a Palestinian gunman killed seven Israeli civilians outside a synagogue in the Israeli settlement of East Jerusalem, one of the worst attacks in the city in years.

This follows the deadliest year in the West Bank since the UN started tracking deaths in 2005, with 154 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

I spent a month in the West Bank in October as part of research for a book on far-right and Islamist politics. Within the first ten days after I arrived, seven children under the age of 18 were reported to have been killed. Over the course of one month, I documented 29 Palestinian deaths in total – and two killings of Israeli soldiers – most of whom under the age of 30.

Because the mainstream English media does not consistently report on these killings, I relied on several social media channels to cross-check names and pictures. And because of regular censorship on these platforms of Palestinian news sources, such as the Hamas-affiliated Quds News Network, the death toll is likely to have been even higher.

While peace has long been elusive in the occupied Palestinian territories, there is a new dimension to the latest violence in the West Bank, which some observers believe could now spiral out of control.

Unlike previous unrest, newly emerging Palestinian militant groups are increasingly fragmented and calling for a popular uprising. This demand, in turn, coincides with a radical shift to the extreme right in Israel’s government.

The emergence of the Lion’s Den

Many Palestinians, and the young in particular, have lost trust in the governing body of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, and other local factions to protect them from expanding Israeli settlements and suppression by Israeli security forces.

This new phase of resistance aims to unite these disaffected youths who are seeking an alternative to the traditional Palestinian power structures.

Several new armed groups have emerged in the past year and a half as the public support for armed resistance has grown stronger. Israeli security forces responded in early 2022 with an operation called “Break the Wave”, which targeted fighters in two West Bank cities, Nablus and Jenin.

This operation, which has paralysed the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority in these areas, was followed by many more raids by security forces throughout 2022 and a deadly start to 2023. This has only amplified the anger of Palestinians.

At the vanguard of this uprising is one group called the Lion’s Den. It is believed to have evolved as an offshoot of an earlier group, the Nablus Brigade (an affiliate of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades).

The Lion’s Den has gained strength since the August killing of one of its founders, Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a charismatic fighter also known as the Lion of Nablus. He was reported to be either 18 or 19 at the time of his death.

As an alternative to more established groups, such as the Islamic Jihad, the Lion’s Den has a relative lack of structure and organisation. This disruptive appeal is part of what draws people to the group. Each time a notable member of the Lion’s Den is targeted and eliminated, the group loses strength in numbers and organisation, but is boosted in its overall appeal.

As one fighter told Al Jazeera, We are a group and not an organisation. Anyone who wants to resist the occupation is welcome. […] It’s about sending a message [to Israel], that we will not sit idly by.

A right-wing government in Jerusalem

The pendulum of violence is also becoming less predictable with the establishment of an unprecedented far-right government in Israel.

The re-election of Netanyahu and the formation of a new coalition government with the ultra-orthodox and anti-Arab parties, the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit, is likely to further legitimise support for de-centralised groups such as the Lion’s Den.

The appointment of Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister could inflame tensions even further. Ben-Gvir has previously been convicted for incitement of racism and unashamedly promoted violence against Palestinians in the weeks leading up to taking office.. He is also an outspoken advocate for settlement expansion and the ultimate annexation of the West Bank.

Isreal’s Security Cabinet has also announced a series of harsh responses to the latest outbreak of violence in the West Bank. These include strengthening Jewish settlements in the West Bank, along with cancelling the social security benefits for families of attackers and making it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain gun licenses.

Whether it is the Lion’s Den or another group that takes the lead in the uprising, it is clear young Palestinians in the West Bank will no longer take a passive role when it comes to the actions of Israeli security forces or politicians.

With Abbas lacking any control over the new armed Palestinian groups and Israeli political leaders such as Bezalel Smotrich (head of the Religious Zionist Party) and Ben-Gvir shaping the narrative of Israeli politics, discussions of a two-state solution and peace in the Palestinian territories are likely to take a backseat for the foreseeable future.

Article link:
Article source: The Conversation | Susan de Groot Heupner| February 1, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

Spiralling violence feared after synagogue bloodshed

by admin 0 Comments

A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside an east Jerusalem synagogue on Friday night (local time), killing seven people, including a 70-year-old woman, and wounding three others before he was shot and killed by police, officials said. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in years and raised the likelihood of more bloodshed.

The attack, which occurred as residents were observing the Jewish sabbath, came a day after an Israeli military raid killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank.

The shooting set off celebrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where people fired guns into the air, honked horns and distributed sweets.

The violence, which included a rocket barrage from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, has posed an early challenge for Israel’s new government, which is dominated by ultra-nationalists who have pushed for a hard line against Palestinian violence. It also cast a cloud over a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region .

Speaking at Israel’s national police headquarters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had held a security assessment and decided on ‘‘immediate actions’’. He said he would convene his security cabinet after the sabbath to discuss a further response.

Netanyahu declined to elaborate but said Israel would act with ‘‘determination and composure’’. He called on the public not to take the law into their own hands.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US strongly condemned the attack and was ‘‘shocked and saddened by the loss of life’’, noting it came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

US officials said later Friday that President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu to offer support to the government and people of Israel, calling the shootings ‘‘an attack against the civilised world’’.

‘‘The president stressed the ironclad US commitment to Israel’s security,’’ the White House said.

Israeli police said the shootings occurred in Neve Yaakov, a settlement with a large ultra-Orthodox population.

Police identified the attacker as a 21-year-old east Jerusalem resident. Jerusalem police chief Doron Turjeman Turjeman promised an ‘‘aggressive and significant’’ effort to track down anyone who helped him.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant met Israel’s military chief and other top security officials and instructed them to assist police and strengthen defences near Jerusalem and for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s MADA rescue service said five men and two women were killed, several of whom were 60 or older. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital said a 15-year-old boy was recovering from surgery.

The attack was the deadliest on Israelis since a 2008 shooting killed eight people in a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, according to the foreign ministry. Given the location and timing, it threatened to trigger a tough response from Israel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group, said the attack was ‘‘a revenge and natural response’’ to the deadly military raid on Thursday.

At several locations across the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians gathered to celebrate the Jerusalem attack, some with large trays of sweets to distribute. In downtown Gaza City, celebratory gunfire could be heard, as cars honked and calls of ‘‘God is great!’’ wafted from mosque loudspeakers.

In various West Bank towns, Palestinians launched fireworks.

Article link:
Article source: The Age/AP | Gwen Ackerman | 29.1.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000