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Palestinian attack on Israeli soldiers ramps up tension in Jerusalem

With the deadly attack Oct. 8, Israeli security agencies warn about tensions in the West Bank seeping into East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount compound.
Israeli soldiers stand guard at one of the entrances of the Shuafat refugee camp, East Jerusalem, Oct. 9, 2022.

Israeli security forces continue the manhunt to find the Palestinian assailant who shot and killed 18-year-old soldier Noa Lazar and wounded a 30-year-old Israeli security guard in the Shuafat refugee camp just outside East Jerusalem on the evening of Oct. 8. Forces searching the camp for the suspected gunman clashed with Palestinians there Oct. 9.

The attack took place at a checkpoint near Shuafat. The Palestinian gunman apparently arrived at the checkpoint on foot. After shooting with a rifle at security forces in place, he fled into Shuafat. Israeli security forces have arrested three Palestinians from the Beit Hanina neighborhood and the Shuafat and Anata refugee camps on suspicion of assisting the gunman.

Following the deadly incident, the Israeli security system is reevaluating the situation. Last week, the Defense Ministry said it will close West Bank and Gaza entries into Israel Oct. 10 — the first day of the seven-day Sukkoth holiday — but only until midnight.

The East Jerusalem attack adds to a string of incidents over the past couple of weeks, increasing tensions in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Temple Mount compound.

At least six Palestinians were detained and an Israeli police officer was injured Oct. 8 in clashes that broke out in Jerusalem’s Old City, at the Damascus Gate. Reportedly, the individuals arrested were all residents of East Jerusalem. Jerusalem police said that some of the marchers threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers, generating a riot. Police spokesperson Eli Levi warned in a post on Twitter, “The Israeli Police will act with zero tolerance toward rioting or violence of any type.”

Scuffles broke out during the annual Muslim procession marking the birth date of the Prophet Muhammad. The procession usually starts at the East Jerusalem Salah al-Din Street, ending at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Organizers said that because of the tensions registered lately in the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians opted to participate in the procession this year. They referred specifically to an incident in the early hours of Oct. 8, when two Palestinians were killed in Jenin in the West Bank by Israel Defense Forces fire in clashes that broke out during an army raid.

Contributing to tensions, Israeli Temple Mount activists have been trying recently to blow the shofar horn in the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem's Old City, at a location known as the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount compound. They have been focusing their efforts on that spot, just outside the Temple Mount, so that Jews visiting the site could hear it from afar. Jewish tradition has the shofar blown throughout the month of Elul and during the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur holidays celebrated earlier this month.

Police had arrested some of these activists on several such attempts, but the court recently ruled that the activists were in their right of freedom of religious worship. Police had argued that these activities could ignite tensions with Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank and lead to violence. Still, the court said Israeli Police could not extend security considerations this far, to ban shofar blowing outside the Temple Mount itself, where Jews are not allowed to pray.

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