Although tensions remained very high, recent days pointed to a slight reduction of violence in Jerusalem. Despite this, the prospects of a more steady reduction in hostilities quickly dissipated on November 5, as another Palestinian militant attack was recorded in the holy city.
North of the Old City, near Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab man from the restive Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat drove his vehicle into a number of Israelis. The attacker then exited his vehicle and began to attack cars and pedestrians with an iron bar. It was at this point that he was cornered and shot dead by Israeli security forces. One Israeli Druze Border Guard officer was killed in the attack. A number of people were wounded.
The incident was the third Palestinian vehicular attack in Jerusalem since the summer. Those attacks killed four people. Almost immediately, Hamas praised the operation and called for more attacks in order to defend Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque from a so-called Jewish takeover. Moreover, the attacker was said to have been a member of Hamas.
Successful militant attacks against Israelis tend to stir nationalist fervor on the Palestinian street. Generally, this means more violence. This poses another problem for the Israeli government, which is aiming to stabilize the situation in Jerusalem through various means. Deployments have been bolstered in recent weeks, arrest raids have intensified, and new legislation has been introduced that allows for 20 year prison terms for Arab rock throwers. But despite these measures and the slight decline in the intensity of violence in recent days, daily incidents of unrest, clashes, and localized attacks against Israelis in East Jerusalem are persisting. Just hours before today’s attack, security forces again clashed with Arabs at and near the volatile Temple Mount in the Old City. The riots coincided with a protest by religious-nationalist Jews near the holy site. Those activists met to condemn last week’s assassination attempt against Rabbi Yehuda Glick.
In this context, this latest attack will likely place further pressure on the Israeli government to reduce the violence. However, both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas are encouraging it, under the pretext of protecting the al-Aqsa Mosque. Therefore, the current level of unrest in Jerusalem is liable to continue for sometime and both sides will remain cognizant to the possibility of a further escalation. Amidst such heightened volatility, the Obama administration will issue the usual calls for restraint. It remains to be seen who will listen.