As Israelis reel over a Palestinian shooting at a Tel Aviv pub that killed three people, the government has threatened to retaliate amid fears of a wider escalation.
Security forces killed the sole attacker in the early hours of Friday after a manhunt by army troops, police and intelligence personnel. Residents of the city – Israel’s commercial and entertainment capital – stayed off the streets after the attack, adding to a sense of diminished personal safety across the country after three more attacks in the past of the last two weeks.
The Israelis are preparing for more violence. “Hopefully there will be no escalation, but the potential is there. This is a time when we have to be ready to handle things in all areas,” said Shaul Shay, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council.
While Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that anyone suspected of supporting the attacks “will pay a heavy price”, former Palestinian Authority minister Ghassan Khatib said Israeli military measures would only ” pour oil on the fire”.
It is possible that Gaza, Jerusalem and Israeli towns with mixed Jewish and Arab populations will be drawn into the circle of violence, in a return to the asymmetric clashes of last May involving devastating Israeli shelling in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire that have sown fear throughout Israel.
The shooter in Thursday’s attack, which injured 10, was identified as Raad Azam, from Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Israeli military analysts predicted that the camp would be subject to a major military operation.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it was difficult for Israel to stop attacks by individuals. “The problem is that it looks like these are not organized by a central body,” he said. “The less organized you are, the more difficult it is to monitor and arrest.
Caught in the middle are Israeli and Palestinian civilians. In Tel Aviv, Anat Einhar, a novelist and creative writing teacher, said she spent tense moments checking that her family members were safe as the sirens sounded and her daughter called her on the phone. sobbing in fear.
The attack “creates a sense of instability, tension and suspicion”, she said. “But I don’t know if I’m going to stop going out or keep my girls from going out for now. If this continues, it could cause me to lock myself up.
She worried not only about the prospect of further Arab attacks, but also that Jewish citizens carrying guns in the streets could become a new facet of life in Tel Aviv. “I fear that distrust and a mentality of force will deepen and that mistrust between Jews and Arabs will grow and that armed men will circle Tel Aviv. I don’t want an armed and paranoid society.
Adam Keller, a peace veteran, said the attack further undermined an already ineffective Israeli anti-occupation camp. He often takes the bus along Dizengoff Street past the pub where the attack took place. “There is no way of knowing where the next Palestinian attack might take place,” he said. “It’s completely random. Anyone could be the next target.
“Now we are going to see a big army raid, there will be resistance, people will be killed and there will be more motivation for attacks and so on. I know the solution, but I also know that ‘After the attacks, it’s not the right time to send out press releases calling for an end to the occupation.
In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack while warning that actions by Jewish settlers could fuel violence.
But most Palestinians seemed to welcome the killings. “Most people see inhumane actions by settlers and Israel every day, so they feel that this fighter represents revenge,” said Ramadan Safi, an electrical engineer and former political activist who was jailed. during the first intifada uprising that raged from 1987 until the signing of the Oslo Autonomy Agreement in 1993.
“Every day in the West Bank and in Jerusalem there are problems with the army and the settlers. They are playing with fire. Most people think it’s a reaction to all the actions of the right-wing settlers and government.
Safi said Israel’s exclusion from a political process with Abbas was fueling tensions and the number of settlers had increased dramatically. “They are pushing the Palestinians against the wall. Every family thinks the same way, that there is no hope in these circumstances.
Khatib said a political horizon is needed. “Otherwise these vicious cycles will continue for a while, then stop and come back. I was 10 years old when the occupation started in 1967. These cycles are the story of our lives.
Olmert, the former prime minister, challenged those who attribute the violence to a lack of political horizon. “Terrorist actions cannot be justified. Period,” he said.