by Keren Setton
JERUSALEM, JAN 21 — A series of attacks in the West Bank in recent weeks led Israeli military forces to increase the alert level in the area.
“One of our missions is to maintain a routine life for both sides,” a senior Israeli military commander in the area told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Israel, who has controlled the West Bank since the Middle East war in 1967, has settled the land with hundreds of settlements and outposts scattered around the territory that is heavily populated with Palestinian cities and villages.
Friction occurred as hundreds of thousands of Jewish residents live among millions of Palestinian residents.
The majority of the international community does not recognize Israel’s occupation over the territory which the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Years of stalemate between the two sides have seen periods of increased tension and bloodshed. Several deadly incidents occurred recently in the area, leading to the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis.
As many countries consider Israeli settlements illegal by the international law, they also consider the measures employed by Israel in the West Bank to be illegal.
Palestinians are not allowed into Jewish settlements in the West Bank unless they have permits to work there. There are roads in the West Bank which Palestinians do not have access to — only Jews can drive through to their homes in the settlements.
According to Israeli officials, the repeated Palestinian militant attacks make such measures a necessity.
“Both sides live very close to each other and we are the gatekeepers for both,” said the senior military commander.
Every entry point into Israeli controlled territory is manned by soldiers in roadblocks and checkpoints, sophisticated surveillance technology is also employed and moves are always monitored.
“When the tensions escalate, it’s not good for any side,” the commander said, as incidents continue.
The end of last year saw the death of an Israeli newborn who was born prematurely as a result of his mother being severely wounded by Palestinian assailants.
Three Palestinian militants were killed by Israeli forces and so was a Palestinian who was suspected by Israeli soldiers at attempting to run them over with his car as they were on duty. While Palestinians say the 60-year-old businessman had no intention of carrying out the attack.
There has also been an increase in settlers’ violence toward Palestinians.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there was a sharp increase in attacks in 2018 with 265 incidents where “Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property.”
In response to the recent uprising violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would promote retroactively legalizing settlement homes. The move was part of what he called “vigorous security and settlement actions.”
Israel heads to the polls in a general election in April.
Israeli media has reported that the head of the country’s secret service has met with a top Palestinian Authority (PA) official in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.
Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation has continued largely unhindered despite tensions being on the rise.
The senior commander who spoke to Xinhua noted that the Palestinians have “too much to lose” from escalating the situation, adding “the economic interests maintain the current status quo and in the end, everybody wants to live and live well.”
The Palestinian economy as a whole is considered one of the weakest economies in the world, according to the World Bank. – XINHUA
Tensions in West Bank continue to be high as sporadic violence threatens stability
by Keren Setton