East Jerusalem and the West Bank are far from the media spotlight, which is focused on Ukraine and other crisis areas. But in the Occupied Territories tensions are mounting day by day, and Palestinian protests and demonstrations are multiplying against the Israeli military occupation, which, for its part, is using an increasingly heavy-handed approach.
These days, this could be seen in their response to the killing of two Israeli soldiers between Saturday and Tuesday, in a spiral of escalating violence that, since the beginning of the year, has left a death toll of more than 100 Palestinians in the West Bank killed by the army of the Jewish state.
On Wednesday, in East Jerusalem and many population centers in the West Bank, Palestinians took part in a general strike in support of the civil disobedience called for by residents of Shuafat refugee camp and nearby Anata, who are now in the fifth consecutive day of a full lockdown imposed by Israeli authorities following an armed attack in which a female soldier was killed Saturday night.
The Israeli police think the suspected attacker, 22-year-old Odai Tamimi, is hiding inside Shuafat, but the Israeli press, citing sources in the intelligence services, has written that the young man most likely escaped to the West Bank. Palestinians see the lockdown of Shuafat and Anata as collective punishment for their more than 100,000 residents.
Another closure was decided Wednesday: the Israeli army surrounded Nablus, the second-largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, after machine-gun fire killed another soldier two days ago. The shooters were two militants from the “Den of Lions,” an independent armed group that has its stronghold in the old city of Nablus.
There are only three checkpoints through which one is allowed to enter or exit the city (for emergency purposes only), and the Israeli station Kan TV reported that it is unclear how long the army will keep Nablus sealed off.
On Wednesday, universities in Birzeit, East Jerusalem, Hebron, An-Najah and the Polytechnic, as well as schools in the Shuafat camp, went on strike against the lockdowns. Stores closed in protest in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus and Tulkarm.
All through Wednesday night, at the Qalandiya checkpoint on the road that passes through Ramallah, Palestinian youths threw rocks at the soldiers, ready to respond with tear gas as trash fires lit up the darkness.
In Shuafat camp, where some basic necessities are beginning to be in short supply, hundreds of people camped near the military checkpoint, but soon after were dispersed by police and soldiers with tear gas and stun grenades.
Clashes broke out at the northern entrance to Bethlehem. One young man was wounded in the eye by a rubber bullet. Protests and clashes also occurred at the Bet El (Al Bireh) checkpoint, one of the most frequent sites of confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
The iron-fist policy, intensified by Israel after the attacks in the spring in Tel Aviv and other cities, has failed to achieve the Lapid government’s stated aim of “eliminating terrorism” and is reportedly driving many young people to the more militant groups, certain that only armed struggle will allow Palestinians under occupation to realize their aspirations.
Groups like the Den of Lions are seen by Palestinians as an expression of national unity that Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, are unable to offer (representatives of the two groups are currently holding national reconciliation talks with the mediation of the Algerian authorities).
And while politics is seen as a disappointment in the eyes of Palestinians under occupation, militancy keeps generating new “heroes” to replace those killed by Israel. Such is the case with Fathi Khazem, the father of Raad Khazem, who was responsible for an armed attack in Tel Aviv at the beginning of summer in which Israeli civilians were killed.
On September 28, another of his sons was killed in an army raid. Khazem, who is wanted by the Israeli intelligence services, has become a symbol, despite never having taken part in militant action or taken up arms, because he has managed to evade capture for months, just like the “Red Primrose,” Ibrahim Nabulsi, the head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who had been able to hide in the casbah of Nablus for a long time before being killed as he refused to surrender.