Jerusalem — Weeks of tension and violence have continued to worsen, with a Palestinian man killed by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank and numerous attacks and acts of vandalism reported inside Israel.
Mohammed Jawabreh, 22, was killed on Tuesday during clashes in Al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron. Medics said he was shot in the chest. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that soldiers used live ammunition in the camp, but said they did so only after firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.
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Police said a 36-year-old Palestinian worker from Nablus was also shot dead in central Israel, though the circumstances remain unclear. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot suggested that the shooting might have had “nationalistic motives”, a term used for attacks motivated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The shootings followed a pair of stabbings on Monday that killed two Israelis, one at a Tel Aviv train station, and the other at a junction in Gush Etzion, a bloc of illegal settlements in the West Bank. Demonstrators gathered at the scene of both attacks, chanting “death to terrorists” and “no Arabs, no terror attacks.”
It all adds to a steadily growing sense of chaos on both sides of the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The unrest started in Jerusalem over the summer, after a Palestinian teenager was murdered in an act of revenge for the killing of three Jewish Israelis in the West Bank.
The city has seen nightly riots since then, fueled by a range of grievances, including visits by right-wing Knesset members to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and ongoing illegal settlement growth in the eastern half of the city.
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have carried out three attacks since Oct. 22, including two hit-and-runs that killed four people and the attempted assassination of a right-wing Jewish activist. Vandals slashed car tyres in the city on Monday night, spray-painting “no cars, no Arabs” on the sidewalks nearby.
We are not citizens with conditions.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of a “religious war” if the provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites continued.
“With their actions, they are leading the region and the world to a devastating religious war,” he said at a ceremony in Ramallah marking the tenth anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death.
Riots also spread to northern Israel on Friday night after a Palestinian was shot dead by police. A surveillance video showed the man, Khair Hamdan, banging on the windows of a police van while holding what appeared to be a knife; he then started retreating and turned away before an officer shot him.
The shooting sparked five days of clashes in his hometown, Kafr Kanna, where dozens of people have been arrested, including 14 on Monday night.
The mayor called the shooting “murder in cold blood”; the justice ministry has opened an investigation, but the officers involved returned to work earlier this week.
“It was brutal behaviour. The officers didn’t abide by the regulations on when to shoot a suspect,” said Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer at Adalah, a Palestinian rights organisation.
Residents of Kafr Kanna said the shooting reinforced a long-standing belief that police are quick to use force with Palestinians. After a series of riots in October 2000, in which 13 Palestinians were killed by police, a commission headed by a former high court justice accused officers of using “excessive force” against the protesters.
“[Israel] must educate its police that the Arab public is not the enemy, and should not be treated as such,” the commission’s 2003 report concluded.
A decade later, though, the sense of discrimination has not changed. Yitzhak Aharonovich, the public security minister, said last week that he hoped “all terrorist attacks” would end with the attacker’s death; police have killed all of the assailants in Jerusalem in recent weeks. Other senior politicians, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, have also defended the officers.
“We’re still seen as the enemy,” said Faris Mahrous, who shut his garage during a general strike in Kafr Kanna earlier this week. “Aharonovitch, Bennett, they gave the police the legitimacy to kill Arabs, whether they’re involved in violence or not.”
The spreading violence has become a major political liability for the government. The army announced on Tuesday that it would send two additional battalions to the West Bank, and police have deployed heavily inside Israel. “We need to prepare for the possibility of escalation,” Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the interior ministry to consider revoking the citizenship of those who “call for the destruction of the state of Israel,” a call that has drawn widespread rebuke from Israel’s Palestinian community.
“We are not citizens with conditions,” said Ahmed al-Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Knesset.