JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
Six weeks after Israel and the Palestinian Authority accepted a U.S.-mediated cease- fire, violence is continuing at some of the highest levels since the start of the Palestinian uprising last September.
Israeli security forces went on high alert this week following a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, none of which caused serious injuries.
On Monday, a small bomb exploded in a supermarket in Jerusalem. A day earlier, a car bomb exploded in the underground garage of an apartment building in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev. Last Friday, a bus driver found a bomb hidden in a watermelon on his bus, which was parked in a Jerusalem shopping mall.
In Tel Aviv, a bomb planted in a water canteen partly exploded outside a pub near the old central bus station. There were no injuries, but the incident — along with the others in Jerusalem — prompted police to renew their appeals to the public to report suspicious objects.
On Monday, after the series of bombings, Israeli helicopters attacked the main Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City.
The army said it targeted a building “used to manufacture weapons and mortar bombs.” Witnesses said the helicopters fired three or four missiles. There were no reported casualties.
In another incident Monday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on three Israeli border police in a drive-by shooting Monday near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. Two of the policemen are in serious condition and the third was slightly injured, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The gunmen fled the scene.
In more violence Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli man in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Israel Radio reported. The victim was a fervently Orthodox man about 30 years old.
Tensions were further fueled after an explosion killed six activists from Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction early Monday near the West Bank town of Jenin.
Palestinian officials said Israel killed the six, who were wanted by Israeli officials for alleged involvement in terrorism.
Israeli security officials denied involvement, adding that the blast may have been a “work accident” while the six were assembling a bomb.
In other violence, a 7-year-old Israeli girl was lightly wounded by shrapnel from a mortar Palestinians fired at the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip late Sunday night.
Palestinians fired four more mortars at the Gaza settlement of Netzer Hazani on Monday, but caused no injuries.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions also erupted in Jerusalem, where Palestinians on the Temple Mount rained rocks down on Jewish worshipers marking Tisha B’Av on Sunday at the Western Wall.
Israeli police subsequently entered the Temple Mount compound, firing tear gas and stun grenades in skirmishes with dozens of young Palestinians.
During the confrontations, 15 police and 20 Palestinians were hurt. The disturbances forced the evacuation of Jewish worshipers from the Western Wall Plaza.
Israeli security officials said Israeli Arab legislators were responsible for inciting the violence because the lawmakers had overstated the threat posed by the Temple Mount Faithful, a Jewish extremist group.
As they do every Tisha B’Av — when Jews around the world mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem — the group had sought permission to visit the Temple Mount in order to hold a symbolic cornerstone- laying ceremony for the Third Temple.
Following an order last week by the High Court of Justice, the group held the ceremony outside the Old City walls, and the rock was removed immediately after.
Despite that, Israeli Arab lawmakers and Palestinian officials warned in the days leading up to Tisha B’Av that the planned ceremony was an Israeli attempt to assert control over the Temple Mount complex, and called on Muslims to protect the mount with their bodies.
These warnings prompted angry crowds of Palestinians to throng into Jerusalem on Sunday, and to pelt the Western Wall plaza below the Mount with rocks.
Given the number of people involved and the hot tempers, observers said it was a wonder the clashes with Israeli police did not take a more deadly turn.