A week has passed since the attack in which the 27-year-old computer scientist Eytam Magini, 27, was shot to death on the terrace of the Ilka bar, in a central entertainment district in Tel Aviv. “Members of the WhatsApp group reported within half an hour that they were fine. Everyone but him. His silence was the worst omen, ”recalls Yoav, 28, a friend of Magini and also a computer programmer, as he lights a candle in front of the bar where he lost his life. Magini had arrived a little earlier at the weekly appointment on Thursday night, at the start of the weekend in the Middle East, together with the engineer Tomer Morad, also 27, his confidant since childhood in a suburb of the metropolitan area of the economic capital of Israel. “He wanted to tell us all that he was going to marry his girlfriend soon, but the bullets prevented him from doing so,” says Yoav grimly next to the makeshift altar of flowers, candles, lamps and Israeli banners with the Star of David.
Passers-by stop from time to time before the spontaneous memorial that still marks the Ilka bar tragedy, in which three people lost their lives and eight others were injured. Meanwhile, activity returns to normal in the Dizengoff street drinking area, crowded with customers well into the night. “For us it is a moral obligation, a civic duty, to defend the lifestyle that defines this city despite the violence,” says Toni Ribtener, a real estate agent in her fifties, with a beer in hand among a group of women.
On the terrace of Ilka, the Palestinian from Jenin, in the north of the West Bank, Raad Hazem, 28, shot at the parishioners at point-blank range. He then went on the run for nine hours, harassed by a thousand police and military in an unprecedented manhunt, until he was shot dead by agents of the Shin Bet (Israeli internal intelligence agency) next to a mosque in Jaffa, ancient Palestinian coastal city absorbed today by the great Tel Aviv.
Since March 22, 14 people have died in attacks perpetrated in four Israeli cities, for which the Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, has given carte blanche “without limitations” to the security forces to “defeat terror” in the wave of bloodiest attacks recorded in seven years. “Whoever has a licensed weapon, it’s time to take it with them,” he exhorted the citizens. In the military operations and police interventions that have followed his slogan, 22 Palestinians have lost their lives in the same period. The list includes members of radical groups and violent demonstrators, but also teenagers, an unarmed woman and a human rights lawyer.
The escalation reaches its peak in a few days when there is an unusual conjunction, which only occurs every three decades. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the beginning of the Jewish Passover and the Christian Holy Week. The spiral of tension culminated on Friday in a pitched battle during the dawn prayer on the Esplanade of the Mosques in Jerusalem, where more than 150 Palestinians were injured. Another 300 were arrested by Israeli agents, who broke into the disturbances in the Al Aqsa compound, the third holiest place in Islam. The escalation threatens to provoke a new outbreak in the Holy City, like the one that a year ago led to an open war in the Gaza Strip, in which 250 Palestinians, a quarter of them children, and 13 Israelis died.
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The attack that struck the iconic heart of Tel Aviv at night has awakened a majority of Israelis from their lethargy, who ignore the Palestinian conflict or observe it as something distant, despite the fact that it boils a few tens of kilometers away. “I live near the Ilka bar. At first I thought it was fireworks. Now I know that we live with uncontrolled violence, ”confesses Yoav at the site where his friend Magini, who was waiting for him a week ago to have the first drink of the weekend, was shot dead.
The Army now patrols in broad daylight in cities like Jerusalem, in an attempt to restore a sense of security to citizens. “From the moment that the territory stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River has become a single State under sovereign de facto where the West Bank is a province for Palestinians without basic civil rights, waves of violence have become a regular and inevitable ritual,” says political analyst Daniel Kupervaser. He believes that this situation has become permanent, given Israel’s immense power and the international community’s indifference to the Palestinian conflict.
Even the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, added, contrary to custom, to the litany of condemnations of the attacks that have hit the Tel Aviv area. On March 29, another radicalized young man from Jenin, armed with an M-16 assault rifle, spread terror in the Bnei Brak suburb, with a majority ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, by gunning down five people. But the veteran rais Palestinian also warned that without a “political solution”, with a state of its own for its people, there will be no “just and permanent peace in the Holy Land, which offers security and stability”.
Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, a religious ultranationalist who rejects any formula for an independent Palestine, has been tempted to respond to the wave of attacks with a reissue of Operation Defensive Shield, the general mobilization of the Army that occupied the West Bank cities in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada. But he governs 20 years later at the head of a motley eight-party coalition that includes Labour, the peace left and, for the first time, an Israeli Arab party.
In its policy of economic and social peace, without territorial or political concessions, the Bennett Executive has kept the border crossings open for Palestinian workers, except during this weekend, for Jewish Passover. “The average Palestinian monthly salary is around 800 shekels (230 euros), while in Israel it is 10 times higher,” says analyst Ben Caspit, in the regional digital magazine To Monitor. “These incomes (from 150,000 workers) support about half of the families in the West Bank and help reduce misery in the Gaza Strip (20,000 workers),” says this columnist about the current Israeli strategy to improve living conditions. of the Palestinians in order to defuse the tension.
Almost all the anti-terrorist military activity has been concentrated in the north of the West Bank, around the cities of Nablus and Jenin, in addition to Hebron (south), foci of resistance by radical militias. The Palestinian security forces acknowledge that they no longer control refugee camps where the militants have become strong. The intervention of the Army with massive raids has led inexorably to a bloodbath in some of these extremist strongholds during what has been dubbed Operation Breakwater.
The lethal interception of three Islamic Jihad activists when they were on their way, according to military spokesmen, to commit an attack last day 2 bore the stamp of the selective killings planned by Israel during the two Intifadas. The same sources said that the troops were forced to open fire on a Palestinian woman near Bethlehem, who pounced on a checkpoint on the 10th despite warning shots in the air. She was unarmed. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayeh has accused Israeli forces of “killing for murder’s sake, without the slightest regard for international law,” in remarks quoted by France Presse.
Contrary to what happened in Ramadan 2021, Jerusalem, the epicenter of the conflict, had remained on the sidelines of the violence until the outbreak of the early hours of Friday. “The suspension of the expulsions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah district has largely calmed down,” says the newspaper’s columnist haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer. The Supreme Court shelved in March the eviction orders urged by an organization of Jewish settlers, who claim ownership of the houses in East Jerusalem, and allowed Palestinian residents to remain in their homes while the Government offers them a definitive solution, a process that can take years.
The Israeli intelligence services consider that the latest attacks have not been coordinated and appear to be the work of lone wolves, according to leaks aired by the Hebrew press. The first two attacks followed a different pattern in Beersheva (south, four dead) and Hadera (north, two dead). They were perpetrated by Israeli Arab citizens (a community that groups 20% of the population) who had a history of links with ISIS jihadism, and not by Palestinians infiltrated from the West Bank in central Israel. The holding of a diplomatic summit in the Negev (southern Israel) on the eve of Ramadan, attended by ministers from four Arab countries, has spread awareness among Palestinian public opinion that their cause has been relegated to the international scene, after more than half a century of occupation.
Why do the waves of indiscriminate violence continue to strike again and again, asks Israeli society through the media. The response is condensed in a tweet by Avi Issacharoff, co-writer of the television series Fauda, who has transferred a story of the Palestinian conflict to Netflix. “It is a contradiction to say that there is no political solution, that we are going to continue occupying [a los palestinos después de 55 años] and then wonder why they are attacking us now”, reasons this journalist, former correspondent in the occupied territories, and veteran of the elite forces mistaarvim (those who live among the Arabs, in Hebrew), commandos that operate clandestinely in Gaza and the West Bank. “Many still believe that we can colonize and dominate a people,” he stresses, “and still live in peace.”
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