Fears grow of renewed violence in Israel ahead of Ramadan amid deadly shootings
JERUSALEM and LONDON — A series of deadly shootings in Israel has sparked fresh fears of the deteriorating security situation as Palestinians approach the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
In the streets of Bnei Brak, a town just outside Tel Aviv, on Tuesday, a gunman fired at civilians, killing five civilians, including an Israeli policeman, before the suspect was shot dead.
Tuesday’s killings marked the third in a series of unclaimed attacks labeled as terrorist by Israeli authorities in just eight days, a wave of violence that has left 11 people dead and raised concerns among political leaders and analysts over to further attacks.
Early Thursday morning, two Palestinians were killed and seven injured in an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. In response to the Jenin attack, the head of Islamic Jihad ordered all forces to be on high alert.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who warned of escalating violence while in Israel just 24 hours before the Bnei Brak shooting, denounced the attack.
“We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, Israel, which killed five innocent victims,” Blinken said. “This comes after two other recent horrific terrorist attacks in Hadera and Beersheba, Israel. This violence is unacceptable. Israelis – like all peoples of the world – should be able to live in peace and without fear. Our hearts go out to the families of those killed in the attacks. »
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, has pledged a strong response to the recent terror attacks.
“Israel is facing a wave of deadly Arab terrorism,” he said. “My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones tonight, and I pray for the well-being of the injured. The security forces are working. We will fight terror with perseverance, stubbornness and an iron fist, they will not won’t get out of here, we’ll win.
Nine Israelis and two Ukrainians have been killed since March 22 in three separate attacks that authorities have labeled as terrorists. Previous attacks were perpetrated by Arab citizens. Tuesday’s suspect was a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank, who was living in Israel illegally.
Hamas, the militant group in charge of the Gaza Strip, called the latest attack “heroic” but did not formally claim responsibility. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, condemned the killing of Israeli citizens and warned against backlash against the Palestinian people, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.
In response to the violence, 3,000 Israeli police will be deployed in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported.
On Wednesday, Bennett announced new security measures and told all Israelis with permits to start carrying weapons, adding to the tense atmosphere.
The death toll is the highest seen in such a short time since 2015. Unlike back then, however, when the majority of attacks were labeled as “lone wolf” stabbings in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the latest attacks in Israel were carried out boldly in major cities in the heartland of the country with the use of automatic weapons.
The second of a trio of recent attacks took place in Hedera, carried out by two men believed to have received training in Syria. The apparent rise of certain sleeper cells of the Islamic State group, their ability to carry out such attacks and their ability to infiltrate the Palestinian community inside Israel and find recruits to carry out such attacks, marks a change in the security situation, according to analysts.
The attacks surprised many observers, with some noting that the problems that were highlighted during the conflict between Israel and Gaza in May 2021 have not been resolved.
With a succession of Arab states normalizing relations with Israel, analysts feel that hopes for a peace deal are becoming hopeless — and without that hope comes the threat of more violence.
Israel’s ‘nationality bill’, enacted in 2018, which reaffirms that Israel is a nation-state for the Jewish people, has also proved controversial abroad and for the approximately 2 million Arabs living in the country. There are fears that the escalation could spread violence to Jerusalem and the West Bank, and that a repeat of the 2021 war could be considered.
And it’s busy days like the commemoration of Land Day on Wednesday or the start of the holy month of Ramadan on Saturday, and grievances left unaddressed, that can tip the scales toward a new wave of violence.
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report