Four attacks in Israel Tuesday mark the most serious series of incidents in a month-long wave of violence, fueling a sense of panic across the country and raising fears of a swelling Palestinian uprising.
In the first attack, two Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers. Meanwhile, another assailant rammed a car into a bus station in the center of the city before stabbing bystanders.
The nearly simultaneous attacks killed at least three people and wounded 16 others, reports the BBC.
A pair of stabbings in Raanana, a city north of Tel Aviv, also took place on Tuesday.
Israeli police reported that one of the assailants in Jerusalem was killed and the other two were shot, though their conditions remain unclear. The attackers in Raanana have both been captured.
At least 17 random stabbing attacks against Israeli Jews have been reported since last Wednesday. Seven Israelis have been killed in the sporadic violence that began weeks ago when Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Twenty-seven Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured by Israeli security forces, reports the Associated Press.
Reuters reports that the militant Hamas group declared Tuesday a “Day of Rage” across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Israel security forces have poured into these areas to help quell the violence. But they face a daunting challenge, as the Associated Press reports:
The attackers, many of them teenagers, have had no affiliation with militant groups, and the seemingly random nature of the stabbings has made it difficult to predict or prevent them. The use of vehicles and firearms in Jerusalem on Tuesday, however, marked a more serious level of violence and bring back memories of the deadly attacks that plagued Israeli cities during last decade's second Palestinian uprising.
The frequent attacks have raised speculation that Palestinians could be embarking on another uprising, or intifada. But unlike the previous such events, “the upsurge in unrest over the last few weeks has persisted even though there’s no political or military organization actively ordering the attacks,” reports Joshua Mitnick for The Christian Science Monitor:
If the accelerating wave of stabbing, shooting, and riot over the last few weeks keeps going on, it’s liable to be called the Facebook Intifada …
Much like social networks helped spread the uprisings of the Arab spring four years ago and helped the Islamic State gain a following in the Islamic world with beheading videos, an atmosphere of conflict is being fueled by campaigns over social networks. Tweets and posts portray the Al Aqsa Mosque as under threat from Israeli extremists and glorify stabbing and shooting attacks.
The current wave of violence erupted amid profound tension over access to Jerusalem’s holy sites and growing frustration among Palestinians over their leadership’s failure to achieve statehood. It comes against a backdrop in which peace negotiations with Israel appear unlikely to restart anytime soon.