A renewed wave of violence has spread across Judea and Samaria in the last couple of weeks, actively aided and abetted by incitement from by Mahmoud Abbas himself.
The current wave began when four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike last week to protest their administrative detention, and Palestinian protestors started a violent riot when the prisoners were not released:
Several hundred demonstrators waving Fatah flags advanced toward the Bituniya checkpoint. Ofer Prison is located just beyond the checkpoint.
An Israeli journalist sustained light injuries to his head when Palestinian teens clashed with security forces at around noon, shortly before the march. It remains unclear whether the journalist was hit by a rock or by non-lethal riot dispersal means used by security forces. He was evacuated to a hospital. Later, another Israeli journalist was lightly hurt when a rock struck him. He was treated at the scene. A number of Palestinians were also injured.
Two of the hunger-striking prisoners, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, are among 14 Palestinians who have been re-arrested by Israel since being released in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier who was abducted on the Gaza border by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that now rules the enclave.
Clashes between security forces and Palestinians demanding the release of the detainees take place almost daily. The most violent demonstration was held last Friday in Bituniya.
Matters escalated when a Palestinian prisoner in Megiddo jail died of an apparent heart attack. Of course there were immediate accusations that Israel tortured the prisoner to death. Israel agreed to perform an autopsy with a Palestinian representative and a member of the prisoner’s family present. No prizes for guessing what happened next: The autopsy revealed that there were no signs that the prisoner had been tortured.
Jaradat’s body was dissected in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in the presence of a Palestinian pathologist, several family members and a legal team from the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs office.
According to the institute, the autopsy revealed no external physical injuries other than those suffered during resuscitation attempts and a small bruise on the right side of the chest.
The autopsy also did not find evidence of illness. “Two muscle bleedings were noted, one in the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest and on both elbows.
“Two broken ribs on the right side were seen, which could be the result of the resuscitation attempts. These preliminary findings can’t determine the cause of death,” the forensic institute said.
“At this stage, before the microscopic and toxicological tests have been finished, the cause of death can’t be related to the autopsy’s findings.”
The Palestinians, as is their wont when confronted with facts that do not fit in with their world-view, refused to accept the findings and accused the Israelis of torture anyway.
The Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Issa Karaka accused Israel of torturing Jaradat, causing his death. “Israel’s version regarding Jaradat’s death is fake and false,” he said.
Karaka demanded an independent probe be launched into Jaradat’s death, stressing that those responsible should be brought to justice.
In case you were wondering who Arafat Jaradat was, and why was this poor innocent man suffering in an Israeli jail, here is a short bio (via CifWatch) which explains all:
According to multiple sources, including even the BBC and Arab sites such as Ahram Online, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, Jaradat was a member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – the terror group affiliated with Fatah.
Haaretz, notorious for its anti-Israel stance despite the fact that it is an Israeli paper, poured fuel on the fire with its despicable slanted headlines which of course were jumped upon with glee by the Palestinians and their supporters around the world.
The added surge in violence that ensued was therefore no surprise. 3,000 Palestinian prisoners went on a one-day hunger strike in protest at Jaradat’s death, and a series of violent incidents occurred in the West Bank:
While forces on the ground are convinced this is not the mark of a third intifada, the chain of events may suggest otherwise. Saturday saw a Palestinian teen injured in clashes, a live bullet found in the body of another Palestinian, and the death in the Megiddo Prison of a Palestinian security prisoner. Meanwhile, countless protests took place across the West Bank.
On Friday, Palestinians protested in various West Bank towns following prayers. In Hebron, dozens rioted while hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF and Border Guard forces.
At the Bituniyeh checkpoint, dozens burned tires and hurled stones at security forces. Clashes were also recorded in Nablus and Tulkarem.
In Jerusalem, Palestinians began to hurl stones near the Mughrabi Gate after Friday prayers. Security forces broke into the premises to restore order. Some Palestinians were lightly injured, mostly due to smoke inhalation.
Hamas, averse to being left out of the fun, have issued calls to increase attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, PA “President-for-Life” Mahmoud Abbas is fanning the flames of this potential new intifada:
There is no reason to doubt the findings of the autopsy on the body of Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat that was conducted at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. A Palestinian pathologist was present during the autopsy. Although it is not clear what caused Jaradat’s death, there are no signs that he was tortured during his interrogation. However, this fact did not prevent the Palestinian Authority from announcing that Jaradat was tortured by the Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority’s message carried no medical weight, but it did have great diplomatic value. It sounded as if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had decided to take advantage of Jaradat’s tragic death to launch a diplomatic offensive. Abbas is allowed to do this, but by doing so he is pushing Ramallah away from its declared intention of cooperation with Israel. The Palestinian Authority is intentionally fanning the flames of controversy.
But even if both sides are currently interested in thwarting a new intifada, there is no doubt that a fundamental change has taken place. Palestinian strongman Jibril Rajoub went on Israeli Channel 2 on Sunday night to issue threats on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. When Channel 2 news anchor Yonit Levi suggested that Rajoub try to calm the situation, he did not abide.
It is reasonable to assume that Abbas does not want a new intifada to start. But he is apparently interested in ratcheting up the tension ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel on March 20.
But if Abbas has chosen to jump on the back of a tiger, he could end up losing control. There are Palestinian Authority officials interested in renewing violence against Israel and they are backed by Hamas in the West Bank. Also, incidents in which there are many victims on both sides could prompt an escalation that leads to the outbreak of an intifada.
On the other hand, it is clear that even if Abbas wants to resume negotiations with Israel, the steps he has taken recently have pushed that goal farther away. An escalation of violence would shift the focus away from meaningful negotiations to the question of how to simply stop the violence. Both sides would emerge as losers.
Moderates on both sides have an interest in restoring quiet until the establishment of the next Israeli government, and Obama’s visit.
Official Israeli sources agree that the Palestinian Authority are stoking the violence in order to make political gains ahead of Obama’s visit:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, on Sunday contacted senior Palestinian Authority officials with an Israeli demand to curtail the growing violence and protests by Palestinian activists across the West Bank. According to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu has authorized the release and transfer of $100 million in PA taxes to bolster the PA.
Amos Gilad, director of policy and political-military affairs in the Defense Ministry on Monday accused the Palestinian Authority of fanning the flames of violence ahead of the planned March 20 visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the region. Speaking on Army Radio, Gilad said, “The PA is walking a thin line: also inciting violence and also not wanting things to get out of control. The problem is that they’re aiming for controlled violence, but it can get out of control. They want to project strength ahead of the Obama visit, so they’re lighting a fire under the prisoner issue — which is a popular issue on the Palestinian street. “
Gilad warned the Palestinians that a third Intifada was not in their interests. “A major terror attack is not in their interest. They know that the damage they would incur would be devastating.”
Gilad also cautioned about talking of Palestinian “prisoners”: “We’re talking about terrorists, murderers, people who have killed Israelis.”
At this stage the usual suspects have entered the picture: The Egyptians have slammed Israeli policy on Palestinian prisoners (a sick joke when you consider what goes on in Egyptian jails); and the US wonders why we can’t all just get along, and urges restraint on both sides.
Meanwhile, earlier today, Hamas’s ally the Al-Aqsa Brigades again joined in the fight in order to show that they cannot be overshadowed by the PA, and shot a Grad missile into Ashkelon. Thankfully no one was hurt, but there was some damage.
Israel isn’t the one that needs to be urged to show restraint. Just look at what is going on all over the Middle East. We show altogether too much restraint. These requests and demands should be addressed to the Palestinians.