JERUSALEM – A wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and harsh countermeasures are eclipsing what’s left of a quarter-century of failed peace efforts and introducing a new generation of fighters.
The youth-led unrest, complete with barrages of rocks thrown at Israeli security forces across the West Bank, east Jerusalem and from the Gaza Strip, invites comparisons to the two major uprisings beginning in 1987 and 2000 known as the first and second intifadas. What’s different this time is the preponderance of young, lone-wolf attackers operating below intelligence agencies’ radars.
The battlefield has spread from the West Bank, where Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli couple Oct. 1, to the streets of Jerusalem, border areas in the Gaza Strip and cities across Israel, including Tel Aviv and its suburbs.
Peace talks have been suspended since U.S.-mediated negotiations broke down last year. Palestinian President Abbas says the lack of progress toward statehood and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians, have spawned frustration and despair.
He told the United Nations General Assembly last month that Israel has violated terms of the 1993 Oslo accords and that Palestinians no longer feel bound by them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Abbas of inciting young Palestinians to attack.
So far, neither Palestinian nor Israeli officials have identified a leadership body coordinating the attacks. Palestinians say pent-up rage has motivated assailants to take to the streets while Israelis point to incitement on the Internet and in mosques.
Triggering the violence are tensions over the Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Housing the Al-Aqsa mosque and the site of the biblical Jewish temple, the shrine is sacred to both faiths and has been a frequent flash point.
Palestinians say Israel is trying to alter rules reserving the site for Muslim worship, citing comments and visits there by members of Netanyahu’s government who advocate allowing Jewish prayer at the shrine. Netanyahu insists that he is not trying to change the status quo.