Last updated: 07/10/2015, 15:44

Key points

  • The latest round of violence, 1 October to 7 October, has seen an increase in stabbing attacks against Israelis.
  • Rioting, stone throwing and assaults carried out by mainly young Palestinians in and around Jerusalem has increased since early September; the IDF has responded with force.
  • Israeli officials have accused Palestinian officials of fanning the violence through incitement.

Recent deaths as a result of violence

  • On 1 October an Israeli mother and father in their 30s, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, were shot and killed in front of four of their children as they drove in the West Bank. A cell of five Hamas members was subsequently arrested by the IDF.
  • On 3 October, two separate stabbings took place in Jerusalem’s Old City. In the first incident, 21-year-old Aharon Bennett and 41-year-old Nehamia Lavi were murdered near the Damascus Gate as they walked to pray at the Western Wall. Bennett’s wife and two-year-old son were also injured before the assailant was shot dead by police. Just 12 hours later, a 15-year-old Israeli was stabbed and his attacker was shot dead at the scene.
  • On 7 October there were two stabbing attacks: an Israeli man was stabbed near the Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City and in Kiryat Gat an IDF soldier was stabbed by his attacker, who stole the soldier’s weapon and was subsequently shot and killed by security forces.
  • There have been violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and IDF forces in 64 separate incidents in the West Bank. On 5 October near Bethlehem an estimated 300 people protested near Rachel’s Tomb, IDF forces were attacked by stones and pipe bombs. On that day the IDF clashed with Palestinian protestors in 64 separate incidents in the West Bank; 13-year-old Abdel-Rahman Abeidallah was killed. The IDF said his death was accidental and the result of a bullet ricocheting off the ground near Bethlehem; another Palestinian was shot dead in Tulkarm on 4 October.

Current trajectory of events

  • The increasing levels of violence are pushing both Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaderships to look at how they can de-escalate a dangerous situation, and Israeli and Palestinian security officials met on Tuesday evening.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to restore security in Jerusalem. Whilst he will want to avoid a further escalation, he is facing pressure from right wing groups, including his own cabinet members who participated in a demonstration outside his house, to take much harsher action to restore deterrence. Netanyahu and Defence Minister reportedly challenged right wing ministers in a Security Cabinet meeting over their public criticism of the government’s handling of the situation.
  • Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah that he had instructed Palestinian Authority security forces to prevent a further escalation in violence. These comments were described as contradictory as the PLO Executive Committee then released a statement which “salutes the masses … confronting the occupation.”
  • On 1 October, the Quartet urged both Israelis and Palestinians to “exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve unchanged the status quo at the holy sites in both word and practice.” The Quartet is expected to take a more proactive role in promoting a renewal in the peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians, with representatives of Quartet members expected to visit in the near future.

Background to the on-going violence

  • The deadly attacks come against the backdrop of several weeks of tension in the West Bank and especially East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount where Palestinians throwing rocks and firebombs have clashed with Israeli forces on a number of occasions. Meanwhile, projectiles have been routinely hurled at Israeli civilians and several Israelis have been stabbed, including security officers at checkpoints.
  • The Jewish holiday period (mid-to-end of September) brought an increase in Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and spurred disturbances. Palestinian youths have repeatedly brought stones, firecrackers and in some cases small pipe bombs into the compound and barricade themselves in the Al Aqsa Mosque with the intention of provoking disturbances and preventing non-Muslims visiting the area. Israeli riot police then ascended the Temple Mount Haram al-Sharif to disarm them, leading to clashes. (For video footage click here.)
  • Tensions are heightened by Jewish nationalist groups and politicians who have been seeking to challenge the status quo on the Temple Mount. Uri Ariel, Jewish Home MK and Agriculture Minister, has previously expressed a desire to see the construction of the third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. He was criticised by fellow coalition member and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni for his recent visit to the Temple Mount. Gafni said, “I think it does not make sense. He is the minister of agriculture. Let him be the state’s minister of agriculture and worry about these issues and not concern himself with Har Habayis [the Temple Mount].”

Palestinian incitement

  • Violence in Jerusalem was initially spurred by accusations that Israel intends to change the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Israel is committed to the status quo which places the site under Islamic religious authority, and tightly restricts non-Muslim access.
  • Israeli officials have accused Palestinian officials of fanning the violence through official incitement.
  • PA President Mahmoud Abbas has praised Palestinian violence on the Temple Mount, saying, “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood … Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded.” He said in a meeting with activists in Ramallah, “Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Israelis] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
  • Israel has additionally blamed Hamas and Islamist groups inside Israel for this incitement. Meanwhile, the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Raed Salah, pays Muslim activists, known as Mourabitounto harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. The group has now been outlawed by Israel.
  • In a statement, the PA accused Israel of “escalation”, and “killing of two young men in occupied Jerusalem,” without mentioning that the two men in question had been killed whilst carrying out stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians.