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The Third Intifada? / The Knife Intifada

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is characterized by low intensity. The ‘habba’ or the ‘rising’ -- a reference to the current Intifada -- does not involve massive troop movements, large scale aerial bombardments and the like. Instead the Israeli-Palestinian conflict features terrorism and guerilla warfare on the one hand and military action to curb such forms of warfare on the other. The conflict also involves diplomatic negotiations aimed at resolving it peacefully.

There seems to be a new intifada for every new generation of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule. The attacks are not only being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, but orchestrated by Hamas and other Islamic groups.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada never officially ended and it is debatable whether the events after February 2005 should be considered part of the uprising or as independent events. From September 2000 until February 2005, approximately 3,000-3,300 Palestinians were killed and approximately 950-1010 Israelis were killed.

The IDF defined the 2015 as "a limited uprising." Uprising translated to Arabic is "intifada." Yossi Melman writing in The Jerusalem Post reported 26 November 2015 that for months, even before the current wave of terror began, and more than a year after Operation Protective Edge, the military echelon - the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and, mainly, the IDF - had emphasized the connection between diplomatic steps and gestures of good will to the local Palestinian population, and the situation in the West Bank. Senior IDF commanders, including the chief of staff, had spoken of this. The political echelon heard them - but decided to ignore the advice or reject it.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on 25 November 2015 it was critical to allow the civilian Palestinian population in the West Bank to live as normally as possible while protecting Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks. “... we need to know how to allow the Arab civilians in Judea and Samaria to live their lives and at the same time do the same thing for Israeli civilians, wherever they are in Judea and Samaria or Tel Aviv and everywhere else. We need to know how to fight in accordance with our needs, to use force when there is no other choice, and most important, not to surrender, and most importantly to protect our values and remain human.”

Palestinian radicals had been trying to violate the status quo by preventing Christians and Jews from visiting the Temple Mount. Palestinian rioters are funded and led by radical Islamist elements. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the two Jewish Temples were located, is the holiest site in Judaism. Called Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, the site contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third holiest site in Islam, the iconic Dome of the Rock (which is not a mosque) and many other small structures. The al-Aqsa Mosque is situated at the southern edge of the Temple Mount and covers a relatively small area of the Mount's surface.

For more than a thousand years under the Ottomans, Jews were forbidden to go there. After Israel captured Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel agreed to maintain the status quo on Jews not praying there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists he does not intend to change the status quo. But Palestinian youths are unconvinced and have repeatedly barricaded themselves inside the mosque, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who have responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. By 17 October 2015 eight Israelis had been killed in stabbing attacks. Around 40 Palestinians had been shot dead over the same period.

The Israeli cabinet approved boosting police numbers in cities across Israel, as well as setting up security checkpoints between Arab and Israeli neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Israel will also deploy non-combat soldiers to help police in Israel, in the West Bank and along the Gaza fence. Netanyahu has also approved revoking Jerusalem residency permits of Palestinian attackers, something which will have to be approved by Israel’s Attorney General.

Nohad Ali, a sociologist from the University of Haifa and Western Galilee College who is an expert on Israeli-Arab affairs, said he does not see the current spate of violence as the beginning of a third intifada. “The eruption of a violent intifada is inevitable – but it will take some time.” At this moment, however, neither party desires this, he said.

The Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem “are very frustrated, do not see light at the end of the tunnel and lack leadership.” Israel neutralized this leadership and “left all the power with the crowd on the street.”

Media analyst Orit Perlov said "At one time, there were buses blowing up in the middle of our cities, causing dozens of casualties each day. Still, the level of hysteria wasn’t as high as it is now. If we were to analyze the situation objectively, we would see that in terms of security, things are actually better today. Nevertheless, people feel more vulnerable.... For people who live online, and young Palestinians do live online, it looks like the intifada has already started.... Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ... is a collaborator with the Zionist entity, as far as these young people are concerned. Hamas is also losing legitimacy among the youth... There are plenty of children involved, but they have no leadership, so there is no way to control them."

The Israeli government responded, in part, by broadening rules on the use of live fire by security forces and by relaxing the state’s strict gun laws. “In light of the security situation, I have decided to ease conditions on obtaining firearm licenses,” public security minister Gilad Erdan recently announced, and he lauded citizens trained to shoot firearms as a “multiplying force” in the battle against terror. Earlier in October, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on licensed Israeli gun owners to carry their weapons at all times. “In a way, it’s like military reserve duty,” he told Army Radio. Fewer than one in 10 Israelis own a handgun, compared to nearly nine out of every 10 Americans, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

All of the attacks in early November had been carried out by lone attackers, and in recent weeks, no Palestinian organizations had been able to pull off organized attacks. Hamas and other organizations were trying to organize shootings and bombings in the West Bank and Israel, but have so far failed due to Israel's intelligence and operational grip on the territories. People weren't waiting for instructions from anyone when committing a terrorist attack.

Two attacks in Israel 19 November 2015 left at least five dead, including one American, Israeli media is reported. A drive-by shooting this morning in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem killed a 50-year-old Israeli, a Palestinian, and an 18-year-old American youth. A stabbing in Tel Aviv likewise left two more victims dead. The Tel Aviv stabbing took place in the Panorama office building outside a room that was being used for prayer.

Ahmed Mansara, the 13-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed a Jewish boy, moments after stabbing another man, has agreed to confess to the attack, but will not serve prison time. Mansara is confessing to the charges now to avoid doing so in January, when he will turn 14 and thereby be eligible for imprisonment in a juvenile facility. The stabbing made international headlines after PA President Mahmoud Abbas erroneously alleged that the assailant was “killed in cold blood by Jewish settlers.

Lawmakers worked on bills to lower the minimum age under which an assailant may receive a prison sentence. Currently, minors under the age of 14 cannot be sent to prison, though some are sent to a home for troubled youth.

The attacks brought to 18 the number of Israelis and others who had been killed, along with 80 Palestinians, in a wave of violence over the previous seven weeks. Police say 49 of the 80 Palestinians killed in recent weeks died at the scene of attacks on Israelis and most of the rest died in violent protests in the occupied West Bank and near the Gaza border.

British Labor MP Gerald Kaufman accused Jews of exerting undue influence over the Conservative Party and charged that Israel was fabricating terror attacks as an excuse to kill Palestinians. “More than half the stabbing claims were definitely fabricated. The other half, some were true, the others there was no way to tell since they executed Palestinians and no one asked questions. They fabricated a stabbing story to justify the killings before they found out they were not Palestinians.”

On 15 November 2015 an op-ed in the official Palestinian Authority daily stated that Israel's Mossad, was behind the attacks in Paris. "The wise and correct thing is to look for who benefits. In short: They need to search the last place reached by the octopus arms of the Mossad...It is clear that its ‘Mossad’ will burn Beirut and Paris in order to achieve [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s goals. He, who challenged the master of the White House, hides in his soul enough evil to burn the world," read the opinion piece in the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper.

A co-founder of the Free Gaza movement, Mary Hughes-Thompson, raised the possibility that Israel was behind the deadly attacks that hit Paris on Friday night and killed 120 people. "I haven't accused Israel of involvement. Still, Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is upset about the European settlement boycott. So who knows," Hughes-Thompson tweeted. Following the January 2015 Paris terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, she similarly hinted at Israeli involvement.

Hughes-Thompson's co founder of Free Gaza, Greta Berlin, explicitly blamed Israel for the Charlie Hebdo attack. “MOSSAD just hit the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag designed to damage the accord between Palestine and France…Here’s hoping the French police will be able to tell a well executed hit by a well trained Israeli intelligence service and not assume the Muslims would be likely to attack France when France is their freind [sic.] Israel did tell France there would be grave consequences if they voted with Palestine. A four year old could see who is responsi­ble for this terrible attack,” Berlin wrote on Facebook.

As of 26 November 2015 a total of 22 Israelis and foreign nationals had been killed in attacks since mid-September and 203 people had been wounded. Eighty-seven Palestinians had also been killed, including perpetrators shot at the scene.

New violence erupted in the West Bank 24 December 2015, with three Palestinian attackers shot dead as they carried out stabbings and a car ramming and a fourth killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers. The campaign of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians had killed 19 Israelis and a US citizen. Israeli forces or armed civilians had killed about 120 Palestinians, most of whom authorities described as assailants.

There is no peace in sight between Israelis and Palestinians as violence in the region escalates. Gaza's Hamas leader on 08 January 2016 vowed that Palestinians will continue their uprising until they achieve their objectives. Speaking to supporters in Gaza, top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the Palestinians will fight "until the land is freed.... We carry on with the uprising and keep building our strength in a way that will surprise the world. We don't do this to defend Gaza; we do it to liberate Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine".

US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro accused Israel on 18 January, 2016 of having separate standards of justice for Jews and Palestinians. Shapiro said that what he called too much Jewish vigilantism goes unchecked by Israel. “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians,” Shapiro said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Shapiro's comments untrue and unacceptable. Twenty-three Israelis and at least 136 Palestinians had been killed since September 2015.

On June 02, 2016 a Palestinian woman wielding a knife was shot dead as she tried to attack a soldier at a West Bank checkpoint on Thursday. "Moments ago an assailant, armed with a knife, attempted to stab a soldier at a military post near the village of Anabta," the Israeli army said in a statement. "Forces responded to the immediate threat by shooting the attacker, resulting in her death." This attack was the latest in a string of similar incidents which had left 206 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead since October. According to Israeli authorities, most of the Palestinians killed were attackers, bearing a knife or gun. Such violence had declined in recent weeks but continued to be prevalent.

The Middle East Quartet, omprised of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noted that the recent terrorist attacks, including the Jerusalem bus bombing in April and the shooting in Tel Aviv cafe in June, demonstrated that the violence in the region continued. "The frequency of attacks and clashes declined significantly in 2016," the Quartet said 01 July 2016. "This slowdown is due in large part to the effective efforts of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, who have successfully thwarted attacks, seized weapons, and arrested suspected extremists. Continued security coordination between both sides has also played a key part in reducing violence."

Palestinian authorities said they had difficulty restraining their young people who see no hope for the future except in fighting. Netanyahu and his allies generally believed that the Palestinian terror wave was fueled by deep-seated hatred of Israel and Jews, with incitement by Palestinian leaders. Most believed that only iron-fist tactics will restore calm. But Israel’s intelligence agencies maintained that while incitement plays a role, the young attackers are driven as much or more by frustration over the circumstances of their lives — personal, economic and national.

Israel’s defense and intelligence agencies maintained publicly for several years that Sunni Hamas, Shi’ite Hezbollah and “global jihad” groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda are three distinct problems that require different responses. With jihadists there can be no negotiating, but Hamas and Hezbollah can be deterred or brought into tacit understandings. Fatah, despite its flirtations with Hamas, is in third category, together with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, pragmatic powers with which agreements are possible.

On 14 July 2017 three Palestinian citizens of Israel killed two Israeli policemen in the Old City of Jerusalem. For 13 days Palestinians protested night and day, refusing to pray inside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound after Israel installed metal detectors at its entrances. They held prayers in the streets and just outside the gates to the Old City. Palestinians viewed the installation of the equipment as Israel asserting a "change in the status" of the Mosque. Muslim leaders alleged that the metal detectors are part of a purported Israeli attempt to expand control over the site, which sits at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters who, according to police, threw rocks and bottles. Israel banned Muslim men younger than 50 from a contested Jerusalem shrine 21 July 2017, ahead of expected protests over the installation of metal detectors there. Police reinforcements poured into Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, particularly in an around the walled Old City where the shrine is located. The security measures came just hours after Israel’s security Cabinet reportedly decided in an overnight session not to overrule a police decision to install the metal detectors at the gates of the shrine that is revered by Muslims and Jews. The decision came despite appeals from key Muslim countries, particularly Jordan, to remove the devices.

Israel backed down in the confrontation. Palestinians entered Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the first time in nearly two weeks, after Israel removed surveillance equipment and other obstacles from the gates leading to the holy site. Thousands of men, women and children made their way on 27 July 2017 to the compound. The metal detectors were removed overnight by Israeli authorities. Newly installed railings and scaffolding where cameras were previously mounted were also cleared, after which Israeli police declared that all new security measures had been removed.

Palestinian authorities say at least 17 people were killed Friday 30 March 2018 by Israeli forces and more than 750 were hit by live rounds. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 1,400 others were wounded at the demonstration. Thousands marched near Gaza's border with Israel to mark the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which stems from March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government's decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land.

Palestinians buried their dead Saturday, with mourners calling for revenge. The United States blocked a U.N. Security Council motion 31 March 2018 calling for an investigation into Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinians participating in a mass protest along the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised soldiers for allowing the rest of the country to celebrate the Passover holiday safely. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann rejected calls for an inquiry into the killing of at least 15 Palestinians by the military at a demonstration on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, saying soldiers had done the right thing. "Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal," he told Army Radio. "As for a commission of inquiry — there won't be one," he added.

Nine Palestinians, including a journalist, died 06 April 2018 after being shot by Israeli troops during border clashes, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza strip said. In addition to the nine dead, one of them a 16-year-old boy, at least 491 other people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the health ministry said. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to prevent a breach of the border fence. The protesters burned tires near the fence, causing thick black smoke to rise into the air. Israel’s military said the Palestinians protesters threw several explosive devices and firebombs and said some demonstrators attempted to cross the border fence. Israel’s military estimated the number of protesters Friday to be around 20,000. That is more than in recent days, but less than the 30,000 who protested on the first day of the demonstrations on March 30.

More than 60 Palestinians were killed on 14 May 2018 in Gaza and more than 1,900 others wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition and teargas at protesters assembled along several points near the fence with Israel. The demonstrations were part of a weeks-long protest calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948. Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded close to 10,500 people.

There was a visible wide and organized effort to storm portions of the Israeli border defense line. This is not surprising as this is exactly what Hamas pledged to do. The IDF has adjusted its approach to the use of live fire when confronting protesters on the Gaza border the state told the High Court of Justice on 01 May 2018. The statement was made at a hearing regarding a petition by a group of human-rights groups asking the court to declare that the rules of engagement used by the IDF in confronting the protest violated international law. Michael Sfard, representing the petitioner Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, said that the IDF was justifying shooting individual Palestinians in cases when two cardinal conditions of international law for using lethal force were absent: the targeted individual poses a danger and the danger is immediate.

Critics contend the Israeli actions violated Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCRP] (which the International Court of Justice confirmed applies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory). Article 6 declares that 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life'. But Article 6 is focused on administration of the death penalty.

A commentary prepared for the Human Rights Committee, [CCPR/C/GC/R.36/Rev.2, 02 September 2015], noted "in order not to be qualified as arbitrary, the application of lethal force in self-defense must be reasonable and necessary in view of the threat posed by the attacker; it must represent a method of last resort after non-lethal alternatives, including warnings, have been exhausted or deemed inadequate; the amount of force applied cannot exceed the amount strictly needed for responding to the threat; the force applied must be carefully directed, as far as possible, only against the attacker; and the threat responded to must be extreme, involving imminent death or serious injury."

In the UK, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said there had been an apparent “calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protesters, who posed no threat to the forces on the Gaza border. ... Many of them shot in the back. Many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.”

Amnesty International called the situation in Gaza “another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way.” Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said. “This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes. ... “While some protestors may have engaged in some form of violence, this still does not justify the use of live ammunition. Under international law, firearms can only be used to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.” A United Nations committee also called on Israel to stop using “disproportionate force” against demonstrators.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stated "Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters."

The IDF said that rubber-coated steel pellets are not effective in preventing Gaza demonstrators from approaching or breaching the border fence. Israel's ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, insisted that the protests were organised by militant group Hamas with an aim to “breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens ... You have got people charging the border fence with wire cutters, with explosives, with molotov cocktails, with other weapons. Their goal is clear and Hamas has articulated the goal. The leader of Hamas here [Yahya] Sinwar said our goal is to breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens. He said openly we want to tear out their hearts... You had some 40,000 people yesterday involved in violent riots on our border. There were continuous attempts to storm the border and breach the border. We have to protect our people. If we allow the Hamas terrorists to enter Israel we will have dead Israelis. We must protect our border.” Among the dead, the IDF said, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Tuesday 15 May 2018 marked the end of the Great March of Return and the commemoration of Nakba Day, a term which Palestinians use to describe their forced mass exodus from their homes during the establishment of the State of Israel. It is celebrated among Israelis as Independence Day.

A Hamas official acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53. “In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas,” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet 16 May 2018. “This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.A Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas on Monday, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

Unemployment in Gaza is approaching 50 percent, according to official Palestinian figures. Gaza's 2 million residents receive only a few hours of electricity each day, tap water is undrinkable and the coastline has been polluted by tons of untreated sewage. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade greatly restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the small territory of barely 360 square kilometers (139 square miles) making it difficult to do business or travel abroad for work, school or family reasons.

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