Amidst already heightened tensions, another attack was recorded in Jerusalem tonight. An Arab driver, reportedly a Jerusalem resident of Silwan, rammed his car into a group of Israelis exiting the Light Rail Train near Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem’s northeast. A three-month-old baby girl was killed and eight more people were wounded. The attacker attempted to flee, but he was shot and taken into custody. It is not his first time in Israeli custody, as he was previously held for militancy. Meanwhile, video from the scene shows that the driver made several turns to line up with the train tracks, and then increased speed as he plowed into his targets. Such attacks in Jerusalem are not unheard of. Several similar vehicular attacks conducted by Palestinian Arabs have occurred in the city since 2008. In August, a tractor was used to batter an Israeli bus until it flipped, which left one Israeli dead. This time around, the death of the infant and continued unrest in Jerusalem has many Israelis demanding answers.
In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with senior officials and then ordered security measures intensified in Jerusalem. Other Israeli leaders demanded security forces put an end to the unrest. But tensions are running very high in Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods. Arab riots and attacks against Israelis or Israeli property are recorded multiple times in many locales on a daily basis. This includes Molotov cocktail or rock throwing against Israeli motorists, public transportation, pedestrians, and Jewish homes in predominately Arab areas. Moreover, the October 22 attack follows increasing concerns over recent Palestinian threats regarding the always sensitive Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Both Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas and Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal have condemned Jewish religious visits to the site. These condemnations are routinely partnered with allegations of Israeli attempts to “Judaize” Jerusalem. Amidst the ongoing threat of riots on the Temple Mount, Abbas even called on Palestinians to use all means necessary to stop Jewish entry there. In light of the ongoing rivalry between Hamas and the PA, it appears that both leaders are contending to be perceived as the most ardent defender of the Palestinian cause in Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities have responded in recent weeks with various measures to counter the growing unrest. Most of these measures, however, were tactical. Deployments were bolstered, ambushes were put in place, restrictions were imposed on entry to the Temple Mount, and observation balloons have hovered above routine friction areas. Specialized units were also designated to remedy the situation. These measures have not succeeded and this latest attack carries the risk of leading to a further escalation. Already, riots broke out when Israeli security forces arrested the brother of the attacker during the late evening hours of October 22. With that in mind, it remains to be seen how far the Israeli government will go to reduce the level of violence in Arab areas of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, violence will continue and the government will come under pressure to act with more force. Whether this means curfews, more raids, or overwhelming deployments of security personnel in Arab areas, the coming days will tell.