A Jewish man stabbed and wounded four Arabs in southern Israel in what seemed to be a reprisal attack against a string of Palestinian stabbings in the occupied West Bank, Reuters news agency reported.
The past 10 days saw four Israelis shot or stabbed to death and three Palestinians killed while scores were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces.
At least a dozen Israelis have been wounded by Palestinians wielding knives or screwdrivers in stabbings in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.
Additionally, Palestinian officials have cited a surge in attacks by Israeli settler following last week’s initial wave of unrest.
The U.S. said on Friday that it considers violence in East Jerusalem to be acts of terrorism against Israel.
U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters the United States “condemns in the strongest possible terms violence against both Israeli and Palestinian citizens.”
“We do consider these particular acts of violence we’ve seen, the stabbings, and killings there, particularly in East Jerusalem as terrorism, but ... all the violence needs to stop and calm does need to be restored,” he told a daily briefing.
‘A new intifada’
On Friday, Hamas’s chief in Gaza called the violence an “intifada” and urged further unrest.
“We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada... It is the only path that will lead to liberation,” Ismail Haniyeh said during a sermon for weekly Muslim prayers at a mosque in Gaza City.
“Gaza will fulfil its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation.”
However, analysts say that it is too soon to classify the unrest as a third Intifada.
“It is still too early to tell whether violence will be sustained enough and on a scale that could be called another Palestinian intifada, or literally, an attempt to ‘shake off’ Israeli control,” Olivia Sohns, a postdoctoral fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin, told Al Arabiya News.
“There, are, however, clear signs that the situation could deteriorate further unless Palestinian and Israeli leaders can negotiate with one another and seek a better future for their peoples,” she added.
Hugh Lovatt, who heads the Palestine/Israel Project at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said comparing the current unrest to past intifadas is unhelpful as each one was different.
“The first one was more of a bottom-up intifada, it started with Palestinian civil society, non-violent resistance, and the second one was more top down with ownership coming rom the political arm of Palestinian groups,” he told Al Arabiya News.
Since no political group or members of civil society have adopted the recent attacks as an intifada, it is unlikely that the current unrest will develop into something more substantial.
“At the moment, the violence we have seen over the last months and years remains an emotional reaction to what they [Palestinians] perceive as Israeli provocation…at the moment it hasn’t translated into anything more substantive than that because of the lack of ownership whether from civil society or from political groups,” he explained.
“There are great chances that current instability can escalate and can continue especially in the West Bank, but for it to be anything more meaningful, will require more organization behind it, which we have not seen so far.”
Tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa mosque
One of the catalysts to the current unrest is increased visits by Jewish groups to the Noble Sanctuary, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The current status quo bars Jews from praying at the Noble Sanctuary, a status quo many Palestinians feel is changing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied wanting to change conditions, but his assurances have done little to quell Palestinian anger.
Both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have called for calm and Palestinian police are continuing to coordinate with Israeli security forces to try to restore order, but there are few signs of the tension and violence dying down.
Palestinian protests were planned in Jerusalem and West Bank cities after Muslim prayers on Friday, and Israel has deployed thousands more police and soldiers. Muslim access to al-Aqsa has been restricted to men over 45 and women.
In the latest attack, a Jewish man in his 20s stabbed four Arab men in the southern Israeli city of Dimona, police said, adding that the motive was “nationalistic.”
The mayor of Dimona said the assailant was a resident of the city who was known to police. During questioning, police said the attacker described all Arabs as “terrorists”.
Hours later, a 14-year-old Jewish boy was stabbed and wounded by a Palestinian in the Old City of Jerusalem, a woman believed to be Palestinian tried to stab a guard at a bus station in north Israel, and a Palestinian stabbed a policeman near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Israeli police said.
The policeman’s attacker was shot dead, police said.
On Thursday, seven Israelis were stabbed in four separate incidents across the country, including the commercial capital
No peace, no talks
Netanyahu has accused Abbas, his Fatah party and the Islamist group Hamas of inciting the violence in East Jerusalem in recent weeks. He reiterated that message at a news conference on Thursday, adding that there was no “quick fix.”
“We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire,” he said.
“While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and... the Islamic Movement in Israel.”
Abbas has praised Palestinians for defending al-Aqsa, a rallying point for Muslims throughout the region, but also urged people to engage in “peaceful popular resistance.”
Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians holding a rally near Gaza’s border fence with Israel on Friday, wounding 12 people, medics in Gaza said.
[With Reuters]SHOW MORE