Campaign of collective punishment after Jerusalem attack

A small Palestinian boy peers behind a wall as heavily armed soldiers stand in village street

A Palestinian boy looks at an Israeli soldier during a raid on the village of Deir Mashal, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on 17 June.

Mohamad Torokman Reuters

Israel imposed sweeping collective punishment measures after an Israeli Border Police commander was fatally stabbed and three Palestinian assailants shot dead outside the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.

The group of Palestinians, all from the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal, were identified as Adel Hassan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, Baraa Ibrahim Salih Taha, 18, and Usama Ahmad Dahdouh, 19.

The slain Israeli police commander was identified as Hadas Malka, 23. Another officer was lightly wounded during the incident, and two Palestinian bystanders were also wounded, one moderately and one lightly, during the shooting, police told media.

Video from the scene shows Israeli forces opening fire in a crowded area:

Witnesses told the Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian media outlet, that Israeli forces shot “haphazardly” during the incident.

The three Palestinians were armed with a homemade Carl Gustav submachine gun, which Israeli media reported had jammed during the attack.

The bodies of the three slain Palestinians remained on the ground for hours, witnesses told Ma’an.

Collective punishment

Witnesses also said that Palestinians were assaulted and detained by Israeli forces around the Old City after the attack, nearby shops were forced to close and the Palestine Red Crescent Society told Ma’an that Israeli forces fired tear gas, causing injuries.

Shortly after the deadly incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a decision to revoke 250,000 permits issued to Palestinians allowing them to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan and the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The collective punishment measure was also intended to censure Fatah, the political faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority, according to an Israeli military official.

Major General Yoav Mordechai stated on Facebook: “Three bastards who undertook this cowardly terror attack received praise from Fatah who falsely claimed they were innocent. This is incitement to terror. In response to this heinous crime and the incitement by Fatah officials to win popularity, Israel has decided to take action, the first is revoking 250,000 entry permits and revoking work permits from the kin of the terrorists.”

Israel will still reportedly leave in place special permission it gives to Palestinians in the West Bank allowing men over the age of 40, children under the age of 12, and women of all ages to enter Jerusalem without permits on Fridays during the month of Ramadan.

The slain Palestinian assailants’ hometown in the central West Bank was surrounded by Israeli forces on Friday night. Soldiers erected checkpoints, with the army stating it would allow only “humanitarian cases” to leave or enter the village.

The military raided the homes of the slain attackers and gave notice that the homes would be demolished.

Such collective punishment measures are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are thus a war crime.

Imad Zahran, mayor of Deir Abu Mashal, said that two Palestinians in the village were shot in the legs with live ammunition during confrontations that broke out during the Israeli military raid, and dozens of others were injured by tear gas inhalation.

Additional injuries were reported on Sunday, as the village was besieged for a third consecutive day, and soldiers allegedly looted the home of a woman who was detained.

Sweeping arrests

Police conducted sweeping arrests targeting Palestinians in Jerusalem without permits on Saturday, rounding up 350 people in a single day, spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told media. Palestinians reported being forced to board buses taken away from the city.

Jerusalem residents reported additional movement restrictions and arbitrary searches following the attack on Friday.

The deadly operation in Jerusalem was similar to others that have been attempted or carried out by small groups of Palestinians acting independent of command from any armed group in the last two years.

Also similar has been Israel’s resort to collective punishment measures after incidents which result in Israeli casualties.

What differed is that Islamic State claimed responsibility for the operation on its news outlet on Friday, the first such claim made by the group concerning an attack in the country.

While Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians have attempted to link previous alleged and actual attacks by Palestinians to the Islamic State, the military refuted the claim that the group was behind the incident on Friday.

“It was a local cell. At this stage no indication has been found it was directed by terrorist organizations nor has any connection to any organization been found,” an Israeli police spokesperson told media.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist faction, claimed that two of the assailants were members of the party, and Hamas, an Islamist faction, claimed membership of the other.

Israel blames Palestinian Authority

Both the Israeli prime minister and defense minister directed their rage at the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu demanded that the PA condemn the Jerusalem attack, and Avigdor Lieberman stated “The Palestinian Authority’s thundering silence and refusal to condemn terror, as well as the statement by Fatah – that [Mahmoud] Abbas heads – that Israel murdered three innocent people, prove there is no partner.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu stated: “I urge the international community to condemn the murder and those who praise it, and demand an immediate halt to the payments of the Palestinian Authority to the families of terrorists, which only encourages terror.”

United Nations and European Union representatives had already condemned the attack on Saturday.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, stated that “Such terrorist acts must be clearly condemned by all. I am appalled that once again some find it appropriate to justify such attacks as ‘heroic.’ They are unacceptable and seek to drag everyone into a new cycle of violence.”

Lars Faaborg-Anderson, the EU envoy to Israel, tweeted his condemnation of the “terror attacks” and issued his condolences to the friends and family of the slain Border Police combatant.

By contrast, Faaborg-Anderson has remained silent about lethal Israeli attacks on Palestinians, such as Israel’s killing in May of a Palestinian fisherman.

These officials have not explained on what basis they consider attacks targeting armed forces in occupied territory to be “terrorism,” which is typically defined as attacks on noncombatants for political purposes.

Trump Jr. intervenes

The Trump White House did not make any statement, but the BBC changed the headline of its news story on the incident following accusations of bias and victim-blaming made on Twitter by Donald Trump, Jr.

The original headline, “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem,” was changed to “Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem.”

Thirty-two Palestinians, including eight children under the age of 18, have been slain by Israeli forces and armed civilians so far this year.

Scores of Palestinians, many of them children, have been shot dead even when they posed no immediate threat to life over the past two years, as part of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy endorsed by the highest levels of the Israeli government.

Seven Israelis, most of them military forces, have been killed by Palestinians so far this year, as well as a British national.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.