The violent uptick in violence in the occupied West Bank is causing worry by many that we are witnessing an undeclared new uprising. Israeli troops almost daily are blamed for killing one or two Palestinians, while armed Palestinians are trying to hit back with little effect. Since the beginning of 2022, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) — the UN agency following up on human rights in the occupied territories — reported that 120 Palestinians, among them children, have been killed. In the past week alone, three children were gunned down by Israeli soldiers. No investigation has been opened in any of those killings despite requests from human rights organizations and major allies such as the United States.
While most of the clashes are taking place in the northern cities of Nablus and Jenin, Palestinian fighters surprised Israeli soldiers at the Shufat refugee camp checkpoint on Oct. 9. An armed Palestinian stepped out of a car at the checkpoint and opened fire on Israeli soldiers. One female soldier was killed and others were injured. What has been most worrisome to Israelis is that the attacks are not only increasing and widening, but they are also more brazen. The Israeli media reported concern that Palestinian fighters are attacking them without wearing masks to hide their identities.
For their part, Israelis are continuing with their own playbook without deviation. As has been the case in the past, Israel has reacted in an exaggerated way with the aim of restoring the elusive deterrence. More than 100,000 Palestinians living in Shufat and nearby communities were not allowed to travel or they experienced long delays, even though they are Israeli residents. Their only problem has been that they live in the Shufat refugee camp or beyond the unilaterally built Israeli security wall. As of this writing, Israel has not been able to apprehend the Palestinian who opened fire with an automatic weapon against the soldiers but has instead arrested 11 of his relatives in an attempt to pressure him to give himself up.
The attack on the Israeli checkpoint took place while a senior Palestinian official, Minister of Civil Affairs and Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein Al-Sheikh (i.e., all issues that require coordination with Israel), was making the rounds in Washington and meeting some of the top US State Department officials, including Biden’s national security adviser Jack Sullivan and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Palestinian and Arab media described the visit as an attempt to give US legitimacy to what appears to be President Mahmoud Abbas’ handpicked successor.
According to press reports, the issue of the urgent need for a political horizon for Palestinians was discussed in Washington, but it appears that until the Israeli Nov. 1 elections and the US midterm elections, it is unlikely that Washington will exert any serious pressure on their Israeli allies, especially since they are busy trying to finalize the Lebanon maritime agreement and keep Israelis at bay regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The internal strife within the mainline Fatah movement also witnessed the finalization of the expulsion of the former head of the intelligence service, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Tirawi. The latter was not invited to the Sept. 30 meeting of the Fatah Central Committee for which he has been a long-standing member, leaving many to argue that he has been ousted, as has Naser Kidwa from the most important Palestinian body. Efforts at internal Palestinian reconciliation will take place in Algiers, with Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh attending but not Abbas.