The Israeli Defence Forces a week ago acting on the intelligence received entered the Jenin refugee camp in West Bank to take down a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell that were planning to attack Israel. The raid by the IDF killed nine people of which seven were identified to have ties with militant groups. Asaf Gibor, Arab Affairs Correspondent with Makor Rishon mentioned that ‘the number of terrorists eliminated in the operation who were trying to stop the Israeli Special Forces to carry out the operation was the reason for its wide coverage in the media.’
In retaliation, a gunman identified as Alqam Khayari arrived by car and began a murderous rampage killing seven people and injuring at least three others near a synagogue in East Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighbourhood. Khayari was later neutralised by Israeli officers while fleeing the scene towards the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina. This was one of the deadliest attacks in the heart of the city since 2008 amidst already heightening tensions of a new wave of Palestinian militancy.
The attacks were celebrated in parts of the West Bank by Palestinians who had little empathy for the lives of Israelis and the attackers were glorified as martyrs for the camp raising the possibility of recruitment in the coming days. Apart from that, the Palestinian Authority has also withdrawn coordination support with the Israeli army after the Jenin raid which further weakens the link to curb some of the uprisings. The last year has seen one of the bloodiest attacks through an increasing wave of Palestinian lone wolves and thus retaliation from the Israeli army resulting in more than 170 Palestinian deaths.
Israel and Palestinian authorities cooperate in the matter of security under the agreements from the Oslo Accord but there has been a growing unpopularity of the Palestinian leadership among the Palestinian people partly because of this security cooperation. There have also been incidents of corruption, arresting political opponents and even cancelling elections which further increase the distrust towards the Mahmoud Abbas-led government.
The Return of a Third Intifada?
The conclusion after every attack in the past year in Israel is fanned by analysts as a return of the third Intifada or the Palestinian uprising. The previous two Intifadas have killed over 6000 people and destabilised the entire region with Palestinian suicide bombings detonating Israeli civilians. It was observed that both the Intifadas constituted a rather younger population who were against the growing Jewish settlement and the existence of the state of Israel. A recent poll shows that 61% of the Palestinians and 65% of Israeli Jews believed there is an incoming third intifada.
The signs for the return of a third intifada aren’t very visible except for the number of young Palestinians joining the militant groups but it is restricted to the north of the West Bank and has not spread to the other regions. There isn’t an exact moment where it might turn into an uprising but for the moment it is under control. An Israeli newspaper, though, warned that continued military operations by the security cabinet might turn this into an intifada.
Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in an interview with the authors mentioned ‘there has been an increase in military activity in Jenin and Nablus area but the forces didn’t succeed in destroying all the infrastructure of the militants and hence we witness the attacks. There has been a large number of Palestinians killed and arrested last year. The new government and a change in political structure might pursue a very aggressive policy to enhance the activities in the settlement and that might influence more Palestinians to join militancy. The simultaneous twin blast a couple of months back which required a high level of planning for example was the first since the end of the second intifada and we might see some signs.’
The Israeli government is now looking forward to taking additional deterrent measures including revoking the Jerusalem resident permits for the families of the militants, stripping the social and health benefits, and even proposing to expedite gun permits for Israelis.
The problem with ultra-orthodox parties in the Cabinet
Apart from the high inflow and circulation of firearms in the West Bank that has caused an increase in violence, the rhetoric of the far-right party has rather amplified the recruitment of militant groups. The National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir who was once charged on the grounds of racism pledged to make Israelis carry firearms. Israel’s new government is the most far-right in history and the administration has met with controversies within the very week at its office. Minister Ben Gvir made a very provocative visit to the al-Aqsa mosque compound that had previously led to an intifada. American-Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi in an interview mentioned that ‘the Israeli turn to the right is not a recent phenomenon and it is during the time of second intifada where there was a lot of Palestinian suicide bombing. Thousands of Israelis were killed during this period because of terrorist violence and this was a great trauma of the Israeli Society. The police last year failed to stop the riots in the mixed Arab-Israeli cities and that also traumatised a lot of Israeli voters. When you are in a time of radical instability or social turmoil, that’s when the extremes turn to rise. ’
Assaf Gibor lastly had a different opinion about this and mentioned that ‘the world has misunderstood the situation. Ben-Gvir lives near the settlement of Hebron with the neighboring Arabs and he has good relations with them. If there’s a person who can solve the crisis, it has to be Ben-Gvir. The violence isn’t happening because of the rhetoric of the Israeli parties but rather the influence of social media which is escalating the situation as we have seen during the Lod riots last year.’
With the Passover and Ramadan coinciding, Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad collaborating, proposals of judicial reforms to expand the settlement and pursue collective punishment will only make the coming days challenging for the newly elected Israeli government.
Ratnadeep Chakraborty is the Co-founder of an independent media company that covers the spheres of strategic affairs called The Honest Critique. He is also the host of the podcast series, Line of Truth. Ratnadeep writes on issues related to the developments in West Asia particularly Israel, terrorism and non-state Militant actors.
Ekampreet Kaur has pursued her Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from Guru Nanak Dev University. She has hosted shows on strategic affairs for The Honest Critique and enjoys writing about global diplomacy, narcoterrorism and international organisations.