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A New Terror Wave Begins, With a Relatively High Casualty Rate

Responding faster than before, Israeli army begins bolstering forces in the West Bank. But even that won't be enough to stop new wave of lone-wolf terror attacks.

Israel and the Palestinians have embarked on a new round of violence after a three-month lull, with characteristics similar to those of the last round, which began a year ago. Since Friday morning, there have been nine Palestinian attacks: two stabbings in East Jerusalem, one in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and five stabbings and an attempted car-ramming in Hebron and the area.
Moreover, the casualty rate is relatively high. Five Israeli security personnel were wounded, one seriously. Six Palestinians were killed and three seriously wounded, all of them assailants.
The escalation is no surprise. Intelligence agencies predicted that attacks might resume between the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha and the Jewish holidays in October. But now, the main factor is copycatting. Each slain attacker prompts a new attack, usually from relatives, friends or neighbors.
For now, these attacks can’t be stopped with the same methods that calmed the last round – improved security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and better Israeli monitoring of social media, which resulted in many suspects being arrested before they could commit planned attacks. But the army is responding faster than it did last year; it has already begun bolstering its forces in the West Bank, and police are expected to follow suit in Jerusalem.
Individual soldiers and policemen are also responding more effectively and ending the attacks rapidly, thanks to improved training by both the army and police following last year’s attacks. And Israeli civilians are better protected, thanks to the installation of cameras almost everywhere and of concrete barriers at West Bank hitchhiking posts. All this won’t stop the wave of lone-wolf terror attacks, but it should reduce Israeli casualties.
As usual, right-wing activists and Knesset members are pouring fuel on the fire. The former held a provocative demonstration on Monday near the Wadi Ara home of terrorist Nashat Melhem, while the latter visited the Palestinian village of Sussia, near Hebron.
But at least Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands the risks of reigniting tensions on the Temple Mount. His restrictions on politicians ascending the mount remain in place.
Meanwhile, the Azaria trial continues
For the Israel Defense Forces, the fact that this escalation has coincided with the climax of the defense testimony in the case of Elor Azaria is no cause for joy. Azaria is on trial for shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron in March, and Monday two of the most high-ranking defense witnesses gave their testimony: Uzi Dayan and Danny Biton, both major generals in the reserves.
Dayan told the court that “terrorists should die” and said the Military Police lacked the tools to investigate army activity. Biton said Azaria’s decision to shoot the terrorist was reasonable under the circumstances and that he should never have been indicted, because questions about a soldier’s judgment in responding to an attack should be dealt with by command inquiries, not criminal investigations.
Dayan has undergone an ideological U-turn in recent years, from diplomatic moderation to the hawkish wing of the ruling Lkud party. This political conversion seems to have caused some memory loss. As the prosecutor reminded him, when Dayan headed the IDF’s Central Command in 1998, it took him all of 70 minutes to order a Military Police investigation of an incident in which paratroopers accidentally killed three Palestinian laborers whose van had approached the Tarqumiya checkpoint. When the paratroopers’ battalion commander protested this decision, Dayan was furious, and explained at length to the press why such an investigation was essential.
Biton assailed the prosecutor (“You’re castrating the army”), the chain of command that handled the incident (“There’s not one person in this trial who isn’t lying, and that’s what’s sad”), and even the former commander of the Binyamin Brigade, Col. Yisrael Shomer, whom he accused of killing a Palestinian who threw rocks at his jeep “out of vengeance” (the military advocate general deemed the shooting justified). And all this was mild compared to what he has written on Facebook.
Reserve officers said the Azaria trial reminded them of the case of Lieutenant D., a tank commander whose crew accidentally killed a Palestinian teen in Gaza 13 years ago while firing a warning shot at suspicious figures approaching their outpost late at night. He was convicted of negligent homicide and given a suspended sentence.
But the incident wasn’t filmed, and the trial attracted little public attention. Reserve officers who tried to persuade serving tank officers – including Biton – to get involved in the trial were ignored. This time, a long list of officers has volunteered to defend Azaria.
One question mark hovering over the trial is how Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will respond. Speaking at Ariel University last week, he said, “We’ll stand behind the soldier even if he erred.” That’s the opposite of the approach taken by the military establishment headed by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
These days, Eisenkot’s nightmare scenarios probably include the following: a filmed attack in which a terrorist kills a soldier as he and his comrades hesitate to shoot. So far, it hasn’t happened. But if it did, it would link the Azaria trial to events in the field and reopen the debate over the army’s rules of engagement.
The army brass doesn’t share Dayan’s view that “terrorists should die”; it wants soldiers to weigh the risks, exercise judgment and take care not to killing uninvolved civilians. Yet this stance becomes harder and harder to explain to the public when stabbing attacks are once again rampant.

Amos Harel

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.743064Schermata 2016 09 20 alle 08.53.00

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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