Israeli authorities: 3 die in two attacks, including one on a bus
Palestinian aid agency: Over 150 Palestinians needed medical care after clashing with Israeli forces
Israeli authorities may loosen gun restrictions in light of the continuing violence
When, and how, will the violence stop? Or will it?
Those were the questions in Israel and nearby Palestinian territories, after a Tuesday that saw more bloodshed, more blame but no apparent moves toward peace.
Instead, Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, said officials in his country are mulling several options aimed at bolstering security, such as closing off the Palestinian suburbs of east Jerusalem.
Another alternative being considered is to make it easier for Israelis to buy firearms by relaxing gun-licensing requirements. Currently, Israel has strict restrictions that limit legal firearms to people in a select number of professions and roles.
Of course, violence is hardly unprecedented in this part of the world. But the nature of what has happened in recent weeks – with a spate of stabbings and other attacks, from a shooting to driving into crowds – is unique, compared to rocket attacks or more obviously orchestrated armed campaigns of the past.
And neither side appears willing to back down.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken sternly and repeatedly about what his government will do to defeat “terrorists” and make his nation more secure.
“Today we will decide on a series of vigorous steps in our fight against the sources of terrorism and incitement. They will be implemented as quickly as possible,” he said Tuesday.
“Israel will settle accounts with the murderers, those who attempt murder, and all those who assist them. Not only will they not enjoy their privileges, but we will exact from them the full cost. Anyone who raises his hand to harm us – will pay dearly. And we will not hesitate to use all means at our disposal to restore peace to the cities of Israel,” he said, according to his office.
The office announced last weekend that about 1,600 reserve border police officers have been mobilized in Jerusalem, where many recent attacks have occurred, and throughout Israel as “a primary preventive and deterrent measure.”
Also Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he would soon travel to the Middle East in a bid to help calm the situation. It wasn’t immediately clear when he planned to go.
Some have suggested the violence represents the start of the third intifada, or uprising, by Palestinians. But others have dismissed that assertion, saying the unrest is simply the consequence of the absence of any progress toward peace.
Whatever the label, some Palestinians insist they are fed up with the status quo.
“We’ve tried negotiations and it didn’t work,” a Palestinian youth in the West Bank city of Hebron told CNN as thick smoke rose from flaming tires. “So now we will fight.”
This youth was apparently referring to persistent protests and clashes with Israeli security forces.
The official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, reported that “live ammunition” wounded at least five Palestinians at the Beit Hanoun crossing point Tuesday. This is after the 18 reportedly shot and injured the previous night at the Huwwara military checkpoint.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that at least 155 people needed medical care – most for tear gas inhalation, though 26 were wounded by rubber bullets, six by live bullets and five reportedly beaten – in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Thirty-seven more were injured in Gaza.
There were no deaths reported in either of those incidents.
Israeli authorities documented several bloody attacks, including one in which an Israeli Jew stabbed a man he mistakenly thought was Arab outside an IKEA near Haifa; and an Israeli Arab hit on the head with a stick on a Netanya beach, according to police spokeswoman Luba Samri.
Other incidents proved even more bloody and were carried out by men that Israeli authorities claim have ties to terrorist groups.
In Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Malkei Israel area, one person died and eight were injured when a man drove into a bus stop, ran over three people, then got out of his car and began stabbing people, according to Samri.
And in the Armon Anatziv area of Jerusalem, one person with a gun and another with a knife boarded a bus and launched an attack. Pictures from the scene, tweeted by Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, showed shattered glass and bloodied floors.
Police managed to kill one and wound the other, who was taken to a hospital – but not before two passengers had died.
This assault elicited praise from Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.
“The Hamas movement blesses the heroic operations in Jerusalem,” the group tweeted, “and hails the heroes who (carried them out).”
CNN’s Michael Schwartz, Amir Tal, Ben Wedeman, Salma Abdelazizi, Ashley Fantz, Michael Martinez and Abeer Salman contributed to this report.