The past week in Jerusalem has seen an escalation in particularly gruesome attacks on Israelis from Palestinian terrorists. On Monday, October 12, there were three separate incidents, two of the incidents targeted Israeli police officers and the other, a teenage boy and younger man. In each case, the assailants were Arabs from East Jerusalem, all under the age of 18, and the two who attacked the police officers were shot.
Terrorists turned up the heat on Tuesday, October 13, with four attacks that included a potentially coordinated bus hijacking. Once again, in East Jerusalem, two Palestinians commandeered a bus with a gun and a knife and shot and stabbed the passengers. A few minutes later, a Palestinian worker for the Israeli telephone company drove into a crowd of pedestrians at a bus stop in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem. After driving into the crowd, he began to assault them with a meat cleaver. In addition to the attacks in Jerusalem, there were two stabbings in a suburb of Tel Aviv, which contains a large American population.
The streak continued into Wednesday, October 14, as an elderly woman was stabbed near Jerusalem’s bus station and a probable attack was neutralized when a “man allegedly lunged at [the police] with a knife. The man then ran toward another police unit, members of which yelled out, ‘He’s a terrorist,’ before they fatally shot him.”
Yet another attack took place on Sunday, October 18, when another assailant, later identified as 21-year-old Muhanad Alukabi, used a knife and a pistol to kill IDF soldier Omri Levi, commandeered Levan’s rifle, and killed eleven more civilians before being shot and killed by the police. To make matters in this incident worse, one bystander who was wrongly identified as a second terrorist was shot by security personnel and then beaten by a mob of civilians. He remains in serious condition. On that same day, several mobs throughout Israel hurled rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops and settlements.
Palestinian terrorism is nothing new for the Israeli government, but this continuous string of “random, unpredictable attacks” is proving to be a challenge. With all of the possible threats of Hamas, Fatah, or basic Jihad, the Israeli police force can’t seem to connect these teenagers with any one group.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his cabinet Wednesday to authorize “the police ‘to impose closures on, or to surround, centers of friction in Jerusalem.'” Essentially, large parts of Jerusalem are now under martial law. In addition to the increased police presence, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has eased restrictions on obtaining gun permits. He made a statement on Wednesday, saying that “In recent weeks, many citizens helped the Israel Police neutralize terrorists carrying out attacks. Citizens trained in the use of firearms are a force multiplier in the struggle against terror.” An armed citizenry rising up against its attackers–what a novel idea!
The Israeli government has drawn criticism from numerous groups, claiming that the Israelis are overreacting to these incidents, which is a criticism about as old as Israel itself.
Unsurprisingly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is at the forefront of these criticisms, blaming Israel for “extrajudicial executions” and calling for an independent state. The surprising criticism comes from parts of the liberal black community under leaders like Jesse Jackson, who is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Given the sources of those critiques, I highly doubt that they will hold much weight into Israel’s defense strategy. As the old saying goes, a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.