Israel sets up checkpoints after violence spikes

Palestinian students taking part in a rally to show solidarity with Palestinians clashing with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in the southern Gaza Strip, yesterday. Seven Israelis and 29 Palestinians have been killed in two weeks of b
Palestinian students taking part in a rally to show solidarity with Palestinians clashing with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in the southern Gaza Strip, yesterday. Seven Israelis and 29 Palestinians have been killed in two weeks of bloodshed in the region.PHOTO: REUTERS

Police tighten East Jerusalem access after surge in attacks by Palestinians; soldiers join patrols

JERUSALEM • Israel set up checkpoints in Palestinian neighbourhoods of annexed East Jerusalem as it struggled to stop a wave of attacks that have raised fears of a full-scale uprising.

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under immense pressure to halt the violence and frustrated Palestinian youth defying attempts to restore calm, police said that 300 Israeli soldiers were joining their patrols.

A wave of mainly stabbing attacks by Palestinians have spread fear in Israel, while a gun-and-knife attack on a Jerusalem bus on Tuesday left two people dead.

A third Israeli was killed in Jerusalem on Tuesday when a Palestinian attacker rammed his car into pedestrians then exited with a knife, making it the city's bloodiest day in the current wave of unrest.

All three attackers in the two incidents were from East Jerusalem, and two were shot dead.

The move to install checkpoints yesterday followed a decision by Mr Netanyahu's Security Cabinet overnight authorising police to seal off or impose a curfew on parts of Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu has faced major criticism over attacks as well as violent Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The upsurge in violence that began on Oct 1 has led some to warn of the risk of a third Palestinian intifada or uprising.

Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in the attacks.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 29 Palestinians have been killed, including alleged attackers, some of them teenagers. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces.

While the stabbings and gun attacks have led to anger and fear among Israelis, video footage shared online of security forces shooting dead alleged attackers has fed Palestinian anger, with protesters seeing some of the killings as unjustified.

At the funeral yesterday for 28-year-old Moataz Zawahra, killed the previous day in clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, youth with their faces covered in red keffiyeh headscarves carried his body and called him a "martyr".

The number and extent of the checkpoints in east Jerusalem were not yet clear and appeared limited yesterday.

In the neighbourhood where three of Tuesday's attackers lived, an AFP journalist saw four armed police checking cars leaving the area.

"This is normal for us," one Palestinian man in his mid-20s said after being stopped while officers searched his car and checked his ID.

Four other checkpoints could be seen in other areas, but cars were mainly being waved through.

Such checkpoints were used during past spikes in violence, much to the anger of Palestinian residents who consider it collective punishment.

The rising tide of violence, which has seen more than 20 stabbing attacks in addition to protests, has raised fears of a full-scale Palestinian intifada or uprising.

In the intifadas of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, hundreds of people were killed in near-daily violence.

The unrest has led to international calls for calm, and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday condemned the "terrorist attacks" in Jerusalem. "Naturally, we mourn the loss of any life, no matter who it is, but this violence and any incitement to violence has got to stop," he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon urged Israel to carry out a review of whether its security forces are resorting to excessive force in clashes with Palestinians.

The violence began on Oct 1, when a suspected Hamas cell shot dead a Jewish settler couple in the West Bank in front of their children.

Those killings followed repeated clashes at Jerusalem's flashpoint, the al-Aqsa mosque compound, in September between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Israel sets up checkpoints after violence spikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe