Violence rocked the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City over the weekend in the aftermath of a suspected Jewish terrorist attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and seriously wounded his parents and four-year-old brother.
Clashes broke out between security personnel and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and on the Gaza border following a fire in Duma, near Nablus, early Friday morning, when two masked men broke the windows of two homes and threw fire bombs inside.
One building was empty at the time, but the second had a family inside, and the flames spread, killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha. The arsonists scrawled graffiti in Hebrew reading “Revenge” on the house, alongside a Star of David.
The other three members of the Dawabsha family were airlifted to Israeli hospitals. A representative of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer said that both mother Reham and four-year-old Ahmed remained in critical condition on Saturday evening. At Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, father Saad also remained in critical condition Saturday, a hospital spokesman said.
In the violence that followed between Palestinians and security forces, the IDF killed one Palestinian by the Gaza border and another just outside Ramallah. Security forces are braced for the possibility that the violence will continue.
“Tensions in the past two weeks in Judea and Samaria have all drained into this most severe incident,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said. “We are coordinating with PA security forces to calm the area.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon immediately condemned the arson.
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“I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act,” Netanyahu said. “This is an act of terrorism in every respect.” The prime minister called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to express his shock at the violent crime, and also visited the bedside of four-year-old Ahmed.
Politicians from across the spectrum issued wall-to-wall condemnations of the arson.
But the outraged words of Israeli leaders did little to assuage Palestinian anger over the attack, which they said was an inevitable consequence of Israel’s failure to seriously tackle the hate crimes committed against them by Jewish extremists.
On Saturday evening about 200 Palestinians fought with soldiers and border police in Duma. One Palestinian was wounded by tear gas inhalation, according to the IDF.
The riot closed the road to Duma, which is located in Samaria, close to the Jordan Valley.
Soldiers fired tear gas at Palestinians who blocked Route 458 with burning tires and threw stones at the security personnel.
Early in the day, settlers and Palestinians fought near the Esh Kodesh settlement, near Shiloh. Security personnel arrived and declared the area a closed military zone. The crowds dispersed and quiet returned to the area, an army spokeswoman said.
On Friday, a series of clashes broke out between Palestinian rioters and the IDF, including two on the border with the Gaza Strip.
In Kafr Kaddum in Samaria, some 100 Palestinians threw rocks and burning tires at security personnel, who then employed riot dispersal means. One Palestinian was shot and wounded. His condition is not known to the army, the IDF spokeswoman said.
In Kalandiya, north of Jerusalem, 50 Palestinians threw rocks and burning tires at border police. Officers fired Ruger rifle rounds and dispersed the riot. There were no injuries, the army spokeswoman said.
Near Hebron, in the village of Halhoul, 30 Palestinians threw rocks and tires at soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal means, lightly injuring four Palestinians. In Hebron, rioters fought with soldiers after prayers near the Al-Rasoul Mosque, when they hurled rocks and burning tires at security personnel. Soldiers responded with riot dispersal means, and fired Ruger low-intensity rounds at the legs of a suspect, the army spokeswoman said. He sustained a light injury, she added.
Also on Friday, a Palestinian approached a military lookout tower in Bir Zeit, north of Ramallah, and threw a fire bomb at soldiers.
Soldiers opened fire on the attacker with live ammunition.
He was wounded and evacuated to a Palestinian hospital by the Red Crescent. According to Palestinian reports, he died of his injuries.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, two groups of Palestinians approached the border with Israel, ignoring calls by soldiers to turn back, the army spokeswoman said, resulting in shots fired by security forces.
In the first incident, two Palestinians approached the border fence in northern Gaza, and ignored IDF calls to stop their advance. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air, and when the Gazans ignored that as well, soldiers fired at one of the men’s legs, striking him, the spokeswoman added. The two Gazans then turned back. Shortly afterward, five Palestinians approached the border fence and threw rocks at soldiers. Security personnel fired in the air and, when that failed to stop them, soldiers fired at the legs of one of the men, hitting him. All five then withdrew, the IDF added.
Palestinian sources later said one Gazan was killed and a second seriously wounded in those incidents.
Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a drive-by shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle in the Binyamin region of the West Bank near the Kochav Hashahar settlement, and the Israeli driver told the army he fired back at the gunman. There were no injuries in the incident, but the IDF found three bullet holes in his car.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, police allowed entrance to Al-Aksa mosque for Friday prayers only to men over the age of 50 and to women. Some stone-throwing erupted just outside the Old City.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot held a security evaluation meeting with Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa, as well as other senior security officials.
Eisenkot condemned Friday’s arson attack in Duma, and ordered a series of steps to increase IDF preparations in Judea and Samaria and to prevent a security deterioration.
The IDF deployed four battalions to the West Bank in an attempt to maintain stability. Two infantry brigades, Nahal and Givati, have stopped training activities and returned to their bases, where they are on standby, Almoz said.
These steps reflect the IDF’s concerns over the potential of the attack to undermine security stability, he said.
Amid fears of public disturbances and terrorist attacks, the Israel Police placed its officers on high alert across the country, following a situation assessment held by the force’s leadership on Friday.
In a statement released on Friday, police said they will deploy thousands of Israel Police officers, Border Police officers and volunteer policemen at entertainment centers across the country and will beef-up the number of operators working at emergency dispatch centers, in order to “increase the sense of public security.”
Following Friday’s meeting, head of the police operations branch Asst.-Ch. Aharon Aksel ordered police districts nationwide to step up their enforcement operations against Palestinian laborers illegally in Israel, as well as Israelis employing or assisting them.
In addition, police said they will reexamine security preparations for major events and summer festivals in the coming days and deploy extra police, both in uniform and plainclothes.Ben Hartman and Seth Frantzman contributed to this report.
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