Israel Palestine: The Cycle Continues

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An attack in Jerusalem yesterday left a three month old dead, whilst rioting continues in East Jerusalem in the midst of continuous settlement activity

The grotesque cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine continues. Yesterday, a Palestinian ran his car into people waiting beside the Ammunition Hill tram stop in Jerusalem, killing a three month old infant, Chaya Zissel Braun, and injuring eight others. The Palestinian driver is reported to have been a known supporter and alleged member of Hamas. He was shot by police at the scene. Many suspect that the attack is in retaliation for the death of a five year old Palestinian girl, Einas Khalil, who was one of two children hit by a settler in Sinjil, north of Ramallah on Sunday; she later died of her injuries. The settler handed himself in to police at the next settlement. It is unclear whether the settler intentionally hit the Palestinian children.

Tensions have been particularly high in Jerusalem since June 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered on their way home from school. The Israeli authorities then cracked down on Hamas members and sympathisers in the West Bank, arresting over 500 of them, including many of those previously released in the Gilad Shalit deal. In response, Hamas upped its rocket fire from Gaza, and hence this summer's war, Operation Protective Edge, broke out.

Jerusalem has been a hotspot for Israeli-Palestinian attacks and counter attacks, almost daily riots and protests, since June. Palestinian teenager Mohmmad Abu Kheider was found burned alive in the forest, apparently in retaliation for the deaths of the three Israeli boys. There were numerous reports of attempted kidnappings of several other Palestinian children in the East Jerusalem area, and many families I spoke to were afraid to let their children outside for fear of them never returning. There were many attacks of Arabs by Jews and Jews by Arabs this summer in the Jerusalem area, the most high profile one involving a mob of extreme right Israelis arriving at the door of a Downtown McDonalds looking for Arabs to lynch.

The settlement issue has again come to the fore, with the acquisition by Israelis of several properties in the Palestinian area of Silwan in East Jerusalem. According to Israeli sources, these purchases were made legally through Arab middle men and the Ateret Cohanim organisation, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he defends the right of any citizen to live anywhere he chooses. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reacted angrily to this latest development, declaring that any Palestinian who sells their home to an Israeli will be sentenced to hard labour for life.

This week saw the Jewish population of Silwan double overnight, as settlers moved in under cover of darkness to prevent "friction with the Arabs" according to one police source. Jews view Silwan as an old Yemenite village from which they were evicted by the British in 1938, and thus have the right to return to their roots in this area. Palestinians then equally note that if this is the case, they also have the right to return to villages from which they were expelled or fled during the same turbulent period. It is a constant tit for tat, a constant cycle, which with stalled peace negotiations does not show much light at the end of the tunnel.

Riots broke out overnight in Shuafat, Issawiya and Qalandia, and police have stated that they will be enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy towards rioters.