Terror attacks and attempted terror attacks unfolded Wednesday with a nauseating, dizzying frequency.
First, in the West Bank near the settlement of Tekoa on Wednesday morning, a Palestinian mob smashed the windscreen of Rivi Ohayon’s car, surrounded the vehicle, opened the door, and tried to attack her. Six other vehicles were hit by the stone-throwing mob; Israelis in the area fired on the attackers, badly injuring a Palestinian teenager.
Next, an 18-year-old Palestinian student stabbed an Israeli in the back at the entrance to the Old City in Jerusalem; the victim managed to fire on his female assailant. It later transpired that she’d written a Facebook post that morning, declaring that she was setting out to become a martyr.
In early afternoon in Kiryat Gat, a Palestinian stabbed a soldier on a bus, grabbed his gun, and raced to a nearby apartment. There, he tried to attack Liat Ohana, who somehow fought him off, pushed him into the kitchen, and fled with her mother. Security forces shot him dead.
In early evening, in Petah Tikva, yet another Palestinian assailant got off a bus and began stabbing a pedestrian, moderately injuring him with a series of wounds in the upper body. Other Israelis subdued the terrorist.
Throughout the day, too, there were stone-throwing incidents and clashes across the West Bank, with Israelis and Palestinians injured.
Coming in the wake of a series of attacks in recent days in which four Israelis have been killed, Wednesday’s catalog of terror underlined that Israel is emphatically in the midst of a marked escalation.
“The sky hasn’t fallen. It’s under control,” Channel 2’s veteran military analyst Roni Daniel insisted on the evening news, not long after another attack was thwarted in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood, when a Palestinian youth was subdued by security forces after pulling out a knife, and shortly before news broke of yet one more incident on the Jerusalem-Ma’ale Adumim highway — an apparent attempt by a Palestinian motorist to ram into soldiers at a roadblock.
“The public shouldn’t panic,” Daniel declared, noting that in every case Wednesday, the assailants were stopped and worse harm was prevented.
Far from panicking, some of the Israelis targeted demonstrated extraordinary courage. The Jerusalem victim, stabbed in the back, managed to pull out his gun and shoot his female assailant. In her home in Kiryat Gat, Liat Ohana somehow managed to fend off a Palestinian brandishing a gun.
But Daniel’s assurances notwithstanding, the situation is certainly not under control.
Whether it deteriorates still further may depend on whether the well-armed Fatah Tanzim forces, centrally involved in the Second Intifada under the duplicitous eye of Yasser Arafat, choose to join the terror wave. A Fatah group initially claimed responsibility for last Thursday’s attack in the West Bank in which Naama and Eitam Henkin were gunned down in their car, with their four young sons watching in the back seat. But a Hamas terror cell from the Nablus area, since arrested by Israeli forces, was actually to blame.
As of Wednesday night, Hamas and Fatah were trading accusations and recriminations, Channel 2’s Ehud Yaari said, with Fatah blaming Hamas for trying to set the territories aflame, and Hamas blaming the Palestinian Authority for purportedly turning in the Henkins’ killers to the Israelis.
The Israeli political leadership, meanwhile, was at some odds with the military hierarchy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of his cabinet colleagues blame PA President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting the violence, including by asserting — as Abbas did at the UN last week — that Israel is allowing “extremists” into al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Some in the Israeli government have rendered that falsehood easier to peddle, by making statements and high-profile visits that have further ratcheted tensions at what is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. The IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, by contrast, assessed that Abbas is working to prevent terror attacks and West Bank riots.
Both Netanyahu and the IDF may well be right. When Palestinian political leaders, spiritual leaders, mainstream media and social media constantly warn that the emotive al-Aqsa holy site is in danger, as they have done relentlessly, violence is an almost inevitable consequence. Trying to stop it, when religious passions have been cynically inflamed, and Israeli Arabs from Jaffa, Lod and Nazareth have also begun protesting, is going to be far easier said than done.
Don’t panic? Don’t be complacent.