As Israelis Grieve, Some Palestinians Exult, and Some Fear What’s Next

As grieving Israeli families sat shiva on Sunday for seven civilians killed over the weekend in East Jerusalem, the family of their Palestinian killer felt a different emotion yet again.


“He was a legend and a hero,” said the killer’s father, Moussa al-Qam, 48, whose father was stabbed to death in 1998, which Israeli officials later admitted was an act. Jewish terrorism. His son Khairy, 21, named after his grandfather, was killed after carrying out Friday’s attack outside a synagogue.

“I raised him very well,” al-Qam said.

Both Mr al-Qam’s comments and his family history highlight why the present moment in Israel and the occupied territories feels so hopeless and dangerous, after a series of violence. force that has killed seven Israelis and at least 14 Palestinians since Thursday.

Some Palestinians like al-Qam show little sympathy for Israeli civilians and live in an environment where Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are glorified and their perpetrators glorified – increases the likelihood of further attacks in the coming days.

Such a desire for revenge, was paired with the targets of radical Israeli ministers in Israel’s new government, has raised questions about whether the region is at the cusp of another escalation involving a grassroots violent uprising in the occupied West Bank. , another devastating conflict in the Gaza Strip, or both.

The Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous body that governs parts of the West Bank, scaled back its coordination with Israeli military officials last week, weakening one of the measures to help contain waves of violence. force in the past.

The nature of Israel’s response could help determine whether the current outbreak subsides or escalates, as can messages delivered by US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who will visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on Tuesday. Two and Tuesday.

But the Palestinians’ desire for a new wave of violence may ultimately be the deciding factor in the current situation. And in interviews on Sunday with Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, there was widespread anger over their treatment, especially after the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank. for more than a decade and a half.

In Jerusalem, the families of seven Israelis were killed on grieving Friday in cramped, dingy homes, welcoming a steady stream of mourners. Some expressed bewilderment that their loved ones had ended up falling victim to this cycle of violence. Others voiced anger.

But for Palestinians, such attacks do not happen in a vacuum: They are motivated by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including Israel occupies the West Bank and the creation of a two-tier legal system distinguish between Israelis and Palestinians in the territory; Israel-Egypt blockade of Gaza; and acts of personal violence such as the murder of his father al-Qam.

Majd Dandis, 31, a neighbor and friend of al-Qam’s family, said: “As Palestinians are killed every day, they see any attack that kills Israelis as something to redeem their dignity. their.

“Of course, everyone was happy,” Mr. Dandis said of Khairy al-Qam’s attack outside the synagogue. “All Palestinian society is happy, not just this neighborhood.”

Video posted online on Friday showed Palestinians in parts of the West Bank and Gaza cheering on news of the attack, distributing celebratory candy and setting off fireworks.

But Palestinian society is not unitary, like Israel’s minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvirwho once displayed in his home a portrait of a serial killer in Israel, which did not reflect the importance of the Israeli people.

Among Palestinians, there is also empathy for Israeli civilians, as well as a broader, more realistic awareness of the damage an uprising could do not only to Israelis but to Palestinians themselves.

Families of Palestinian attackers, among them al-Qams, were forced out of their homes before the buildings were demolished, a standard Israeli practice that critics call punishment. collective. Dozens of their relatives and neighbors have also been arrested and questioned.

The cost to society as a whole will also be high. The second Palestinian uprising in the 2000s left about 1,000 Israelis dead, mostly in terrorist attacks, but nearly three times that number of Palestinians died in the Israeli response.

In al-Qams’ East Jerusalem neighborhood, which was captured by Israel in 1967 from Jordan and still considered occupied by much of the world, fear of an Israeli crackdown has dented the pride of Israel. some residents.

While some of al-Qam’s neighbors agreed that his son was a hero, they also tried to prevent journalists from talking to the father to prevent him from saying anything that might cause further trouble for the father. Town.

A mile away, the family of another Palestinian attacker – a 13-year-old child shot and wounded two Israelis on Saturday morning – showing a similar surroundings.

They expressed pride in the actions of their 13-year-old relative, who was shot, wounded and arrested after the attack near the Jewish enclave of East Jerusalem, and indifferent to his fate. wounded Israelis. But they said they feared the consequences the attack would have on the boy’s family. Currently, his parents and two brothers have been questioned by Israeli police and their house is sealed off for demolition.

Khalil Abbasi, 31, the boy’s uncle said: “Of course we are proud of what he has done. “But at the same time, we’re sad that his family doesn’t deserve this.”

Relatives said they had never heard the boy express his desire to attack Israelis and that he probably got the idea from social media. One The boy’s 13-year-old classmate, who was spending the afternoon with his family, said he and other young friends tried to dissuade him.

“We said, ‘You don’t have to do that; it will bring destruction to your family’,” said the classmate. “But he went ahead and did it.”

In areas of the West Bank and Gaza, some have expressed similar vigilance. In Balata, a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups in the northern West Bank, a member of an armed faction said he did not want a widespread insurgency.

“Everybody is tired,” said Abu Zoofe, 37, a member of the Balata Brigade, a small armed group. “Nobody wants another intifada,” he said in a phone interview.

In Gaza, some residents said they were not ready for Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the strip, to fire missiles into Israeli airspace because that would almost certainly provoke another round of Israeli air strikes. Israel aimed to ravage this land, less than two years after the event. The last great air battle.

Ahmed Esleem, 19, a business university student, said the people of Gaza “do not want tensions to escalate because the war in 2021 has destroyed their mental health and their homes. “A lot of people will die,” he said.

Hamas leadership warned on Saturday of “an unprecedented escalation,” but it did not say it would lead to that escalation and did not claim responsibility for recent attacks in Israel.

Among some Palestinians, there is a feeling that they have nothing to lose from an uprising because the situation is already so tense.

In Jerusalem neighborhoods like Silwan, where the 13-year-old gunman grew up, many Palestinian residents are under threat. constant threats of deportation or demolish the house. About 200 homes are vulnerable to lawsuits by Israeli settlement groups seeking to consolidate Israel’s control over the city, according to the report. Peace now, an anti-occupation advocacy group. The group estimates that more than 20,000 Palestinian homes could be demolished because their owners built them without planning permission.

A study by the United Nations office on humanitarian issues description Such permission is “virtually impossible” for Palestinians to obtain, in part because the city government has set aside little land in Palestinian areas for residential development while facilitating Israel’s large-scale settlement building.

A few meters from the home of the 13-year-old boy arrested in Saturday’s attack was the rubble of another building. It used to be his aunt’s house. Authorities demolished it several years ago for lack of permits, the family said.

The al-Qam family home, a few miles away, will likely be one of the next. On Sunday, it was sealed off by Israeli security officials, forcing al-Qam to sleep with relatives and is expected to be demolished in the coming weeks.

Mr al-Qam said it was a price worth paying.

“Even if I have to sleep outside, I don’t care,” he said. “As long as my son fulfills his duty, I don’t care.”

Hiba Yazbek and Raja Abdulrahim contributed reporting.


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