Washington has urged all sides to exercise restraint in the holy city. But amidst ever-increasing volatility in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has called for a “day of rage” on October 31. His party, Fatah, reportedly stated “Fatah calls to its fighters and to the masses of the Palestinian people to aid the Al-Aqsa Mosque and occupied Jerusalem.” The calls are in response to Israel closing the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem on October 30 after the assassination attempt against Rabbi Yehuda Glick on October 29. His attacker, Mu’taz Hijazi, was killed in a firefight with an elite Israeli police unit this morning. Abbas reportedly added that the Israeli move was a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nation. This latest rhetoric comes after Abbas called on Palestinians to defend the mosque from “Jewish settlers” by all means necessary. It is in this context that Israel will brace for an escalation in unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank tomorrow, October 31.
As I wrote before, tensions in these areas have been high for months. They have, however, become exacerbated from several factors. These included this summer’s hostilities in Gaza, allegations of Jewish attempts to conquer the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, Israeli building in East Jerusalem, and inter-Palestinian rivalry. Such tensions have led to daily unrest, including rock and Molotov cocktail throwing targeting Israeli security forces and citizens. Additionally, two recent attacks, one on the Jerusalem Light Rail and the other targeting the aforementioned rabbi, have forced Israel to bolster deployments of security forces in the city. Heightened tensions are likely to continue in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the coming weeks.
Moreover, the calls by Fatah underscore continued competition between the two leading Palestinian factions. Leaders from both Hamas and Fatah have escalated their rhetoric in recent weeks regarding tensions in Jerusalem. With that in mind, traditional rivals are likely competing in regards to increasing instability in Jerusalem to bolster their influence among the Palestinian public.
In that context, Abbas’ call for a “day of rage” is also likely a show of strength. Therefore, protests or unrest should be expected throughout Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods, the Old City, and in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Furthermore, localized attacks, mostly involving rock and Molotov cocktails, are likely to target Israeli security forces and citizens. Security forces will also likely stay abreast of more advanced militant attacks, including shootings and low-grade bombings. As a result of the increasing threat of disturbances on October 31, Israeli security forces will likely further increase their deployments throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including in the vicinity of checkpoints and major roadways to prevent attacks against Israeli motorists.
Throughout this volatile region, Fridays are increasingly restive. Muslim religious and political leaders typically use heightened turnouts for afternoon prayers to mobilize their supporters. This often means hitting the streets. With a “day of rage” planned for tomorrow, a Friday, the outcome is easy to predict.