Israel had a bloody Independence Day last Thursday. Indeed, Axe Rampage was the latest in a series of deadly assaults by Palestinians inside the country. With ‘pay the price’ as the war cry, so to speak, the government in Tel-Aviv is hunting for attackers who hacked three persons to death. The attack is the latest in a recent upsurge of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has raised fears in the Middle East of a slide back to wider conflict.
“We will get our hands on the terrorists and their supportive environment and they will pay the price,” Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, said after the attack in the city of Elad, near Tel-Aviv. The assailants are said to have used axes and knives. Israeli forces were hunting for two suspects, said to be 19 and 20 years old, from the town of Jenin. Several perpetrators of recent attacks have come from in or around Jenin, and Israeli forces have launched raids that have ignited gun battles there.
The axe and knife attacks on Thursday, Israel’s Independence Day, were the latest in a series of deadly assaults inside the country in recent weeks. It came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions were already heightened by violence and repeated incursions by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, whose government administers autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security, condemned the attack.
“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians leads only to more deterioration at a time when all of us try to achieve stability and prevent escalation,” the official Wafa news agency quoted him as saying. Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced the closure of the occupied West Bank ~ in place for the anniversary ~ would remain in force till Sunday.
For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence marks the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel’s creation. The Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised Thursday’s attack and linked it to violence at the Jerusalem holy site.
“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said. “The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”
Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war a year ago, fuelled in large part by similar unrest in Jerusalem. Israel captured the West Bank, and Gaza, and occupied East Jerusalem ~ which includes Al-Aqsa and other major religious sites ~ in the 1967 Middle East war. With positions continuing to remain intractable, peace eludes the country.