Israel stepping up arrests to preempt new uprising
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel plans to step up arrests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to prevent a rising tide of low-intensity conflict and civil unrest from turning into an uprising, security sources say.
“There is a certain (Palestinian) awakening,” one source said. “As a consequence a decision was taken within the security establishment to increase intelligence activity and arrests among members of Hamas or activists against Israel,” he added. “It started in the past few days and will increase.”
Recent events, however, suggest that such a policy could backfire.
On Tuesday, undercover Israeli troops attempting to arrest a suspected Islamic Jihad activist were pelted with rocks by an angry crowd. The squad made their arrest, but Palestinian security sources said dozens were lightly injured when soldiers fired rubber bullets, live rounds and tear gas at Palestinians.
Israeli public radio’s military affairs reporter quoted military sources on Wednesday as saying the arrest operation was routine, but the Palestinian response was anything but so.
“What is exceptional is the grave disturbances,” she quoted her sources as saying. “An operation like this would not in the past have brought disturbances of this kind.”
“There is a certain rise in disturbances in the territories but talk of a third intifada is premature,” she added.
Earlier this month, Israeli occupied troops in a southern West bank village were forced to abort an attempt to arrest a Palestinian policeman when crowds of local residents pelted them with rocks.
They seized the man later at a military checkpoint near Hebron. Ghassan Khatib, a veteran of the first intifada, who later became a Palestinian cabinet minister and now teaches at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, does not see a guiding hand in the current round of clashes.
He considers as “spontaneous” the daily confrontations between Palestinian farmers and radical Jewish settlers, the hurling of rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli motorists in Palestinian areas and the clashes with troops.
“I don’t think that it can be connected to any specific event; it’s been building up gradually,” he said.
“I think it’s a result of the dangerous combination of a complete absence of any political horizon together with serious economic and financial crisis that is leading to increased unemployment and poverty,” he added.
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