Three Israelis were murdered and 20 more injured following multiple terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv on Tuesday organized by Palestinian groups as part of a Day of Rage.
The murders are the latest in a string of violent attacks on Israelis perpetrated by knife- and gun-wielding individuals, leading to security crackdowns and fears of a Third Intifada. Thus far, the United States has seemingly done little more than condemn the violence and remind all parties that it is monitoring the situation.
Tuesday morning, the State Department, in a statement attributed to spokesman John Kirby, condemned “in the strongest terms” the terrorist attacks, adding that “we mourn any loss of innocent life, Israeli or Palestinian.”
The substance of the one paragraph statement did not vary greatly from a readout made available to reporters late last week, which offered scant details of separate phone calls between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Oct. 10 to “express his deep concern” over the recent violence.
Kerry reminded the two leaders of the “importance of strongly condemning violence and combating incitement and taking affirmative steps to reduce tensions,” including upholding the status quo at the Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as Haram al Sharif.
The Tuesday violence came as part of a daily round of attacks perpetrated by Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Israel. Three people were killed in two simultaneous incidents in the East Talpiot neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem and in the Geula neighborhood in the central part of the city.
Two men, identified by police as Palestinians from the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, attacked passengers on an Egged bus in East Talpiot, killing a man in his 60s. One assailant carried a gun and the other a knife. A second man, 45, later died at Shaare Zedek hospital. At least 10 other people injured by gunshots and stabbing wounds were treated at area hospitals. One of the attackers was killed and the other wounded during the attack. According to reports, the assailants first attempted to commandeer the bus before attacking passengers.
In the Haredi Orthodox Geula neighborhood, police said an attacker drove a car into a bus stop, killing one and seriously injuring another before exiting the car and stabbing pedestrians. A security guard shot and seriously wounded the attacker, who was identified as a resident of eastern Jerusalem with Israeli citizenship. An employee of the Bezeq telecommunications group, the assailant used a company car in the attack, Ynet reported.
Two attacks on Tuesday morning took place in the central Israeli city of Raanana, located about 10 miles from Tel Aviv and home to many immigrants from English-speaking countries.
An eastern Jerusalem resident employed by a local rehabilitation center stabbed pedestrians at a bus stop on Ahuza Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. He was subdued by civilians, according to police.
Another resident of eastern Jerusalem, reported to be a municipal worker, was captured and subdued by passers-by after stabbing pedestrians near Raanana City Hall, police said.
Early Tuesday afternoon, police said a Jewish-Israeli stabbed a fellow Jewish-Israeli near Haifa after mistaking him for a Palestinian. The attack took place near an IKEA store in Kiryat Ata, located in northern Israel.
Also Tuesday, hundreds of Gaza Palestinians rioted close to the Erez Crossing near the security fence with Israel, throwing rocks and firebombs, according to police. The border with Gaza was closed.
Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of the Security Cabinet to assess the security situation.
According to Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank that publishes Middle East Quarterly, the response coming from the Obama administration shows a general lack of understanding of the current situation.
“[The] U.S. is treating it like any other Monday in Israel when it’s not,” said Roman. “It’s not business as usual.”
With each of these murders an entire family is shattered and will never be the same.
Though a Third Intifada “may be even more frightful” than the Second Intifada, which was launched in 2000 and claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis, Roman also predicted that the situation could present an opportunity.
“Maybe they’ll realize [the 1993 Oslo peace accord] is dead,” said Roman, who in the past served as a political adviser to Daniel Ayalon during that politician’s time as Israel’s deputy foreign minister. This could be a “third Israeli awakening.”
It could prove to be an American awakening as well, he contended. Congress could tighten the purse strings and stop funding corrupt Palestinian Authority officials and call for increased engagement between Israelis and Palestinians, with the help of regional partners such as Jordan, he suggested.
Sorrow at the escalation of violence came from many quarters of the Jewish community.
“With each of these murders an entire family is shattered and will never be the same. Our hearts ache for their loss as we hope for this violence to end,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the board for the Jewish Federations of North America, in a written statement.
“We continue to mourn for those who have been murdered and pray for their families, and we wish for a full and speedy recovery to all of those who have been injured. No family should have to endure such pain and suffering,” echoed Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“There is no possible justification for this shedding of innocent blood, and we continue to stand in solidarity with the State of Israel and its efforts to combat terrorism and stop these senseless attacks,” Silverman added.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism, the umbrella organization of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist movements, headquartered in Jerusalem, condemned the acts.
“The cruelty of those who attack innocent civilians and children on their way home from school seems to know no limit,” the statement attributed to WUPJ leadership said.
“During dark times like these, there is a powerful urge to hate and to inflict collective punishment on ‘the other.’ However, we cannot let extremists set the agenda for the rest of us. There will only be peace once the fundamentalists no longer perpetuate this cycle of hate.”
WUPJ international leadership was scheduled to meet in Jerusalem this week in an expression of solidarity and will have full representation at the World Zionist Congress, scheduled to meet in Jerusalem from Oct. 20 to Oct. 22.
Some members of Congress declared their solidarity with Israel in the wake of the most recent attacks.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Baltimore Jewish community, said via email, “I’m concerned and saddened by the increasing incident of attacks on Israelis in recent days. The brutal attacks against men and women, young and old, religious and secular, soldiers and students are deplorable terrorist acts that must be condemned forcefully and cease immediately.”
Likewise, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said via email, “Today and every day I continue to stand with a friend and treasured ally, Israel, in the face of troubling and heart-wrenching attacks. We must ensure that Israel, our nation’s trusted ally, has the resources it needs to protect its people and the support necessary to end the cycle of violence.
“As vice chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have been insistent and persistent on foreign aid and military assistance to Israel that maintains its qualitative military edge on its defensive systems. A rise in violence in Israel underscores the need for Congress to continue to work together to stand with Israel. You can count on me to be an unabashed and unwavering fighter for the safety and security of Israel.”
Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas laid the blame for the violence — which began soon after Abbas’ return late last month from New York, where he told the U.N. General Assembly that his people would no longer see themselves bound by any peace agreement — squarely on Palestinian leadership.
“These attacks have been incubated by the continued incitement and glorification of violence by the Palestinian leadership, most recently by President Mahmoud Abbas during his address at the United Nations General Assembly,” Cruz said last week in a written statement.
Cruz noted that Eitam Henkin was a dual American-Israeli citizen. Henkin and his wife, Naama, who lived in the Neria West Bank settlement, were killed Oct. 1 when Palestinians fired multiple shots into their vehicle. Four of the couple’s young children were in the backseat during the attack but were unharmed.
“The terrorist who killed him did not care, as his sole intent was to kill Jews, not to engage in a political process,” said Cruz. “There is no moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and the obligation of Israel to act in defense of its people.”
Following the attacks Tuesday morning, Cruz added, “Meat cleavers and carving knives are the tools of barbaric violence, not the diplomatic process. [Abbas] must end this savagery immediately or face the loss of the support American taxpayers have generously extended for many decades.”
He reiterated the United States’ ongoing commitment to Israel “in the ongoing fight against the radical Islamic fanaticism that is trying to destroy both our countries.”
JTA contributed to this report.