Intensified security situation in Israel: protests continue
Three dead in attacks in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank: The incidents follow heavy rocket fire from Lebanon and counterattacks from Israel. Rockets are also being fired from Syria.
Tel Aviv. Despite the tightened security situation in Israel, protests against the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious government continue unabated. Thousands of people demonstrated again on Saturday evening in the coastal city of Tel Aviv and in other cities against the controversial judicial reform. They lit candles and observed a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of two attacks. In Tel Aviv, protesters dressed in black uniforms marched with a “Dictator’s Rage Brigades” banner, apparently alluding to the National Guard to be given to far-right Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
According to rescue workers, an Italian tourist was killed and seven other tourists between the ages of 17 and 74 injured in an attack near the Tel Aviv beach promenade on Friday evening. Two Israeli sisters were killed and their mother critically injured in an attack in the West Bank on Friday morning. The alleged Palestinian perpetrators had shot from a car at the women, who were also traveling in a vehicle, and were then able to escape.
The injured in the incident in Tel Aviv all came from Italy and Great Britain, according to the hospital. Police said the gunman drove his car at high speed on the beach bike path and hit several people. The car overturned. According to police, the driver was shot dead by a police officer as he was about to pull out a gun. However, Israeli media reported that it was a dummy weapon. According to police information, the assassin was an Arab from Kfar Kasem in northern Israel.
Three missiles fired at Golan Heights
According to the Israeli army, three more rockets were fired from Syrian territory in the direction of Israel. Two of them struck “in Israeli territory” on Sunday night, and another projectile was intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system. It was not immediately known where exactly the rockets hit. According to its own statements, the Israeli army fired at the Syrian rocket launchers that fired the rockets during the night.
According to the military, three rockets were fired from Syria onto the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights on Saturday evening. The Israeli army said only one of them fell in an open field in the southern part of the Golan Heights. The other two rockets apparently did not reach Israeli territory. According to its own statements, the Israeli army responded by shelling Syria on Sunday night.
The Golan Heights is a strategically important rocky plateau some 60 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. The plateau was conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981. However, this was not recognized internationally. Under international law, the areas are considered Israeli-occupied territory of Syria. Former US President Donald Trump formally recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory in March 2019, thereby completing a U-turn in US foreign policy.
Israel’s air force regularly bombs targets in neighboring civil war-torn Syria. Israel wants to prevent its arch-enemy Iran and militias allied with it, such as Hezbollah, from expanding their military influence in Syria. Along with Russia, Iran is the most important ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.
EU condemns acts of violence
Heavy rocket fire from Lebanon hit Israel on Thursday. Israel blamed the Islamist Palestinian organization Hamas for the attacks and then launched aerial attacks on militant Palestinian bases in the neighboring country to the north and in the Gaza Strip. Numerous rockets were also fired at Israel from the Palestinian territory on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Federal Foreign Office in Berlin wrote on Twitter: “We are concerned about the situation in the Middle East and are appalled by the terrorist attacks on Passover, which killed three people. Terror and violence cannot be justified by anything.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also condemned the attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank, as well as rocket attacks from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. “The EU expresses its total condemnation of these acts of violence,” he said of the attacks. “This must stop.” He also condemned the actions of the Israeli police on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem. Israel has the right to defend itself, but any response must be proportionate. Borrell called on everyone involved to exercise maximum restraint “to prevent further escalation and to ensure calm during the holidays”.
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