Jerusalem, a powder keg, has erupted in fire – review

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It could have turned out either way. The calm should have returned, or Israel could have been at war.

Despite the fact that hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli security officers, and people had been wounded in the previous week, the security community believed that the situation should have returned to normal.

But that was wishful thinking on my part.

On Monday, more than 300 Palestinians and many Israelis were wounded in clashes with police forces, a level of brutality not seen in the city in years. Although Israel has been chastised for its handling of the Jerusalem crisis, the situation could have been even worse.

No one had died as of the writing of this post, despite the fact that blood had been poured on the Temple Mount and grenades had been tossed inside al-Aqsa Mosque.

Nonetheless, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad agreed on Monday evening that they could no longer remain silent. They launched over 50 missiles at Israel, including seven at Jerusalem.

According to Palestinian sources, Israel retaliated rapidly, including an attack on Beit Hanun in northern Gaza that killed three children, though some speculated that it was a failed launch from Gaza.

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Palestinian terrorists have recently attempted to carry out other attacks, such as the one on Friday at the Salem Border Police station, but none have been successful.

While Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have targeted Israel, less than ten rockets had been launched from the blockaded coastal enclave in the previous week as of Monday evening.

Hamas instead resorted to launching hundreds of incendiary balloons that have wreaked havoc on fields and nature reserves. It’s a strategy that shows the terrorist group supports Palestinians in Jerusalem but does not want to risk serious retaliation from Israel.

The IDF has increased its troop deployment to the West Bank, where it has been expecting more violence.

The military believed that even with the threats by Hamas and PIJ, the Islamists are more deterred than previously thought.

But they aren’t.

Although Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip have clashed several times over the last three years, the past year has seen far less violence, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

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But with the country seemingly over the worst of the deadly pandemic, things are back to their old ways. And the political deadlock that Israel is facing, compounded by the cancellation of Palestinian elections, has not made the situation any easier.

Two and a half weeks ago, when some 36 rockets were fired toward Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi ordered an extensive aerial operation to be prepared. The planes were armed and the pilots were ready, but then they were ordered to stand down.

On Monday, the IDF postponed the largest drill in its 73-year history. Thousands were set to take part in the exercise, dubbed “Chariots of Fire,” which would have seen all commands, as well as political bodies, simulate a multifront war against Israel’s enemies.

Kohavi had earlier decided that the drill would go ahead despite the growing security crisis in Jerusalem and subsequent tensions on the northern and southern borders. However, due to the current violence, one battalion that was expected to take part was redeployed to the West Bank.

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Instead of starting a “war month,” the IDF could have been at war, a senior officer said.

And on Monday evening, all indications pointed to just that.

Rockets likely will pound Israel, and a Hamas or PIJ cell in the West Bank or from Gaza could attack the IDF or Israeli civilians.

Jerusalem is a tinderbox on slow burn. And because of that, the country looks like it will be dragged into another round of violence with terrorist groups.

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