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Palestinian fury fuels random attacks and skirmishes with Israeli forces

In another day of violence, Israeli police reported that an Arab attacker stabbed a 70-year-old woman at a bus station, while in Bethlehem, dozens of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops. Gwen Ifill gets an update from special correspondent Martin Seemungal, who is in Jerusalem, about the high tensions over the unorganized, random attacks and Israel’s punishing security response.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Violence and counterviolence continued today in Israel. Israeli police reported that an Arab attacker stabbed a 70-year-old woman near Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, while, in Bethlehem, dozens of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops.

    Over the past two weeks, 32 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed. And each side blames the other for this latest outbreak.

    NewsHour special correspondent Martin Seemungal is in Jerusalem. I spoke with him a short while ago.

    Martin, welcome.

    So, tell us today what the mood and the atmosphere is like in Jerusalem.

  • Martin Seemungal:

    Well, it’s a very tense situation.

    We have had a few days of these so-called lone wolf terror attacks, knifings of Jews on the streets here in Jerusalem and some other parts of Israel. And that’s got people extremely nervous, people looking over their shoulder, not knowing when the potential next attack could come.

    There was one, as we talked about in — just outside the Old City, an attack, an attempt on — attack on an Israeli security guard. The perpetrator was shot. And then, of course, the attack at the bus station, where a 70-year-old woman was stabbed, and that perpetrator was shot. Those kinds of things only add to the tension here.

    Amid all that, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government is making good on its promise to crack down in these areas, in these Arab areas where the attackers have come from. So, we have seen an entire neighborhood, an Arab neighborhood called Jabel Mukaber, cut off. We have had checkpoints put up. And we see people being searched.

    The rest of East Jerusalem not as sealed off as we had thought it would be. However, we do see roadblocks that we hadn’t seen before. Obviously, the Israelis trying to make a point that they’re going to punish people in those areas where those attackers came from.

    Also, the Israeli government talking about destroying the homes of the terrorists, also talking about stripping them of their residency, and even there’s a discussion that the bodies of the attackers who have been killed, obviously, are not going to be given back to the families, the Israeli government saying, when they do that, all that does is give an opportunity to support terror, and these funerals become a celebration of terror.

    So, the Israelis say they don’t want to do that.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    So, what has been the Palestinian reaction, not only on the streets, but also in the government?

  • Martin Seemungal:

    Well, the Palestinians are saying these actions by the Israelis in East Jerusalem are unprecedented, and they see it as collective punishment.

    Mahmoud Abbas made a statement today on Palestinian television where he said: We have the right to peaceful protest. We’re going to continue to stand up to the occupation.

    He didn’t mention anything about the terror attacks in recent days. That raised some eyebrows here in Israel. He talked about the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which, as we know, has been a source of great concern among the Palestinians. They feel that the Israelis are trying to change the status quo on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and they’re accusing the Israeli government of trying to do that.

    The Israeli government responded very swiftly to that, saying — this evening, saying that Mahmoud Abbas is only adding to the incitement and spreading lies among the Palestinian population and only making things worse.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    You used the term lone wolf to describe these attacks and counterattacks at the top here.

    It seems like this is a little different. There’s a viral aspect to these attacks and the degree to which people act and counter-react.

  • Martin Seemungal:

    Absolutely.

    And, you know, that viral aspect on social media, whenever there’s an attack, it spreads on social media, and each side has its own narrative as to what’s behind it. The Palestinians say that the Israelis are treating some of the people who were the attackers very badly. We saw that video yesterday of the young boy on the ground, the Israelis saying that these are terrorists, they’re being whipped up by the Palestinian leadership.

    And, as a result, this just keeps going on and on. And, you know, we have this attempt by the Israeli government to try to put a lid on this with these checkpoints and deploying more troops and whatnot. But one of those attackers today, the one outside the Old City, for example, didn’t come from anywhere in the Jerusalem area. He came from Hebron.

    So, these attacks are very unpredictable, and, as far as we can tell, they’re not organized. So, that is very difficult for the Israelis to try and put a stop to it.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Martin Seemungal reporting for us tonight from Jerusalem, thank you.

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