The remains of a car at the scene of the shooting.  Picture REUTERS

The remains of a car at the scene of the shooting.Picture REUTERS

Later that night there was also an attack in Tel Aviv. A car ran over a group of people in a park. One person died and five people were injured. According to the police, they are British and Italian tourists. The fatal victim is a 36-year-old Italian tourist. The perpetrator, a 45-year-old Israeli Arab from the town of Kafr Qasim, was shot dead by police.

Israeli police launched a manhunt for the Palestinian gunmen after the deadly shooting in the West Bank. The Palestinian militant movement Hamas speaks of a “heroic” operation.

About the Author
Jenne Jan Holtland is a Middle East correspondent for by Volkskrant. He lives in Beirut. He was previously a correspondent in Central and Eastern Europe. he is the author of the book maputo messenger (2021).

The incident came at the end of another tense week that coincided with Islamic Ramadan and Jewish Passover. On the night from Thursday to Friday, the Israeli army shelled targets of the Palestinian militant movement Hamas both in the occupied Gaza Strip and in southern Lebanon. There were no casualties, according to Israel, it was targeting tunnels and military positions. However, some houses and a children’s hospital were hit.

The Israeli army command sent reinforcements to the borders with Gaza and Lebanon. After the attack in Tel Aviv, all Israeli border police reservists were also called up.

The current cycle of violence is the latest in a series of clashes that have killed 94 Palestinians and 18 Israelis since the beginning of this year. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has lasted for more than half a century, with no prospect of a solution. Because Palestinians live as second-class citizens, human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International speak of ‘apartheid’.

The immediate reason for the latest escalation was the repression of the Israeli security forces on Tuesday and Wednesday in the al-Aqsa mosque (Jerusalem), in which dozens were injured. This has angered Muslims throughout the region. The mosque is the third most important sanctuary in Islam. The Temple Mount, where the mosque is located, is also a holy place for Jews. Rockets were fired from both Gaza and Lebanon on Thursday (two injured), many of which were intercepted by Israel’s anti-aircraft system. Tel Aviv blamed Hamas for shelling its positions outside the Lebanese city of Tyre.

No response Hezbollah

Previously, such an airstrike provoked a furious reaction from Lebanese Hezbollah (literally: ‘God’s party’), which bills itself as the patron saint of the Palestinians. This time, a spokesman only called for “vigilance,” a sign that Hezbollah’s priorities have changed. “Their mission as an anti-Israel force is a thing of the past,” said Hilal Khashan, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut (AUB). By way of illustration, last fall the Lebanese government reached an agreement with Israel over its maritime border after US mediation. Hezbollah gave the green light for that.

Palestinian salutes on Thursday were also fired with Hezbollah’s tacit approval, a sign that it will never fully abandon its Palestinian allies. However, the political scientist Khashan, like other observers, thinks that Hezbollah is not aiming for a new war with its southern neighbors. The difference from 2006, when Israel and Hezbollah fought a bloody war, is stark: Hezbollah has emerged as the most powerful group in its own country, while Israel has bad memories of two previous military expeditions (1982 and 2006).

“No one is expecting an escalation now,” an Israeli army spokesman said on Friday. A Hamas representative stated that the movement had “clarified its point.” Friday prayers on the well-attended Temple Mount continued without incident.