Intifada and a simmering Palestine
By Venkatesh Raghavan
In what’s feared to become the next round of intifada (uprising) with a Palestinian gunman killing Israeli civilians who had gathered to observe the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath in a synagogue, Israeli authorities responded with caution. Unlike the Sabbath observed by most Christian denominations, the Jewish Sabbath is from the sunset of Friday to the sunset of Saturday.
The Friday night (January 27, 2023) attack was described as one of the worst terror attacks in recent times, with seven casualties, and three sustained injuries. It was followed close on heels by a Palestinian teenager firing outside the Old City that resulted in two people getting injured on Saturday morning. Neutral observers feel inclined to connect the events with the killing of 30 Palestinians in the past four weeks. They stated that the Palestinian militia is precipitating violence to mull their frustration over the killings.
The shooting that took place in the East Jerusalem synagogue has so far resulted in 42 arrests made by the Israeli police authorities. Furthermore, a counter-terrorism unit of the Israeli military is being stationed permanently in East Jerusalem to promptly respond to any such violent incidences in the near future. The situation in both the firing incidents got defused after Israeli police gunned down the Palestinians involved.
At around 8.15 pm, when those assembled at the synagogue were making their exit, the gunman broke in and opened indiscriminate firing. The firing incident coincided with Israel’s holocaust memorial day. It commemorates the extermination of six million Jews in Nazi-ruled Germany’s concentration camps during World War II. Though no particular Palestinian militant group claimed responsibility for the horrendous civilian attack, celebrations taking place in the Palestinian camp were evident.
Earlier, this Thursday (January 26, 2023), the Israeli military launched a raid in the occupied West Bank territory of Jenin. While the Palestinian militia responded to the raid with rocket fire from the Gaza strip towards the Israeli-occupied settlements, Israel pressed into service a series of air strikes. Soon as the news of the civilian attack at the synagogue spread, reactions started pouring in from World leaders including British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who tweeted, “To attack worshippers at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day, and during Sabbath, is horrific. We stand with our Israeli friends.”
The slew of attacks and counter-attacks have served to escalate the tensions between the two camps with World bodies including the UN expressing deep concern for the restoration of peace in the longstanding warzone. Meanwhile, US President, Joe Biden in a telephonic connection with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reassured the latter of appropriate support as the situation might deem.
The Israeli military has since stepped up its troop presence in the occupied West Bank territories. Netanyahu along with his minister for security Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the site of the carnage soon after the firing incident late Friday evening. The far-right wing minister Gvir’s promise to restore safety to Israeli citizens is currently under the scanner of the local Jewish communities.
From the global observers’ front, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern about the continuously escalating violence in Israel as well as in the occupied territories of Palestine. The global body also expressed the need for the exercise of utmost restraint to usher in and give peace a chance. Ever since the 1967 six-day war, Israel has claimed that the entirety of Jerusalem falls under their jurisdiction and deemed it as their capital city. With limited takers for this claim on the international front, Palestinians to date dream of having East Jerusalem as their capital once the two-state policy gets implemented.
Later, during the course of media interaction in Washington, the US Department of State’s Principal Deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel stone-walled all queries related to what brought about or sparked the violence and denied any knowledge of Israel having nuclear capabilities.
“…we’re just working to unearth as much information as we can, as this just happened. But broadly, of course, we’ve been in touch with our Israeli partners on a number of issues over the course of the past [few] days, and I’m sure that we will talk about a lot of these issues or at least the Secretary will in the lead-up to his trip this weekend also,” Patel said. When asked whether the US finds any connection between the deaths of Palestinians over the past 27 days – 30 Palestinians have been killed and most recently yesterday, Patel reiterated that the United States was working to unearth as much information as it can. “And we’re in direct talks and in close touch with our Israeli partners about that. But I want to be very clear about the condemnation of any kind of violence against civilians” he said.