Teen Palestinians engage in 'knife intifada'

JERUSALEM • A knife concealed in a bag or a shirt has become the weapon of choice and symbol of the Palestinian conflict with Israel, along with stone-throwing and shootings.

The unrest has prompted comparisons with previous Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s and early 2000s. But what marks the current wave of turmoil from earlier eras is the fact that the knifings and attacks on police are mostly being carried out by teenagers, female as well as male, without political ties or apparent coordination from above.

"I came here after I saw on television what happened at Al-Aqsa," a Ramallah student said, as she collected stones to take to the young men at the head of the fighting.

Others, most of them students at the nearby Birzeit university who have come to join the stone-throwing after class, echoed her words on Al-Aqsa. The holy site in the heart of Jerusalem's Old City has become a rallying cry for angry, hope-drained Palestinians determined to challenge Israel.

The people who began using knives in sporadic but almost daily attacks this month have been described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "lone wolves", their anger ignited by Facebook postings and shared on social media.

Some of the assailants are so young, they were not even born when the last uprising, or intifada, broke out in September 2000. They are a generation that has grown up on failed efforts towards Middle Eastern peace, angry with its own leadership and losing faith in the prospect of a Palestinian state.

Since 2003, Israel has built a vast steel and concrete barrier cutting most of the West Bank off from Israel and East Jerusalem.

While thousands of Palestinians cross the barrier every day for work, checks and searches are common and smuggling a car bomb or other bulky weaponry is significantly harder. As a result, the violence now has mostly been carried out with easy-to-conceal knives and screwdrivers.

The Palestinian media is now referring to the latest surge of violence as the "knife intifada".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Teen Palestinians engage in 'knife intifada''. Print Edition | Subscribe