En route to escalation: IDF beefs up forces as Hamas, PA incite violence

Israel views the security situation as very sensitive and there is fear of a wider conflagration.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has ordered reinforcements to Judea and Samaria following riots and concerns of an escalation in Palestinian violence, Israel Hayom reports on Sunday.

Israel views the security situation as very sensitive and there is fear of a wider conflagration that appears to threaten stability not only in Judea and Samaria but in areas within the Green Line.

In one example, Israeli forces stopped several buses of Israeli-Arabs making their way to Jerusalem to take part in protests. The Arabs, rather than turn around, disembarked and blocked the highway. In Nazereth, Jaffa and other Arab towns, holding protests in solidarity with the rioters.

There are a number of potential touchpoints of violence , including two on Sunday evening, which marks both the start of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday, and al-Qader, the 27th night of Ramadan in which the fate of Muslim believers is decided.

Also reportedly coming in a few days is a Supreme Court decision regarding the eviction of Arab squatters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are blaming Israel for the violence, but Israel says they are the ones fanning the flames.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “After days of incitement by the Palestinian Authority and terror groups, including Hamas, riots broke out on the Temple Mount.”

The PA and Hamas remain undaunted. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas took to Palestinian TV to blame Israel. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Don’t play with fire. This is a battle you can’t win.”

Although based in the Gaza Strip, the terror group wants to present itself as the defender of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Arabs of Jerusalem.

Israel for its part has tried to calm the violence, which began on April 13 at the start of Ramadan. (The Islamic holiday, marked by daily fasting, has been marred in past years by riots and violence against Jews in Jerusalem.)

Israel has asked Jordan and Egypt to intervene with Hamas and convince it to lower its rhetoric.

Netanyahu said, “Israel is working responsibly to ensure law and order in Jerusalem in order to protect freedom of worship in the holy places.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “It’s forbidden to let extremists from any side cause an escalation in the situation.”

Israel reportedly did not have intelligence forewarning when violence broke out on Friday. After weeks of on-again, off-again riots, Israel considered the situation to have calmed by Tuesday. However, it did say that this past weekend would be the ultimate test.

The results of that test are clear. Violence which began around 8:00 p.m. Friday and continued on Saturday led to 300 Arab rioters injured and 17 Israeli police officers hurt, one seriously.