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Shooting attacks in occupied East Jerusalem: Seven settlers dead, five injured

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Khairi Alqam’s murderer was never apprehended. He was in fact arrested, imprisoned, but acquitted and released under house arrest.

Jerusalem24 – Two consecutive shooting attacks in occupied East Jerusalem have killed seven Israeli settlers and injured five.

Israeli police have raised the alert across the city to the highest possible level, and Israeli media report that Yamam counter-terrorism units have also been deployed.

The two shootings follow a largescale Israeli military invasion of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday morning which killed nine Palestinians and injured 20, and which the residents described as a “massacre” harking back to the days of the Second Intifada.

The Palestinian Presidency announced on Thursday it was ending security coordination with Israel “effective immediately”.

Seven dead near Beit Hanina

On Friday night, a Palestinian shooter identified as 21-year-old Khairi Alqam, from Al-Tur in occupied East Jerusalem, shot several passersby in street in the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaakov (built on the lands of Beit Hanina), killing seven and injuring three including a 15-year-old boy.

Alqam then fled by car before being stopped by Israeli police and engaging in an exchange of gunfire during which he was shot and killed. According to Israeli media, an armed settler was also involved in the exchange of fire.

Israeli forces have arrested at least 45 Palestinians, acquaintances of Alqam’s and members of his family including both his parents, from Al-Tur since last night.

Alqam’s grandfather and namesake, Khairi Alqam, was murdered by a suspected Jewish Israeli serial attacker in 1998. The murderer was apprehended, imprisoned, but released under house arrest in the illegal Israeli settlement of Tkoa (built on the lands of Tuqu’) near Behtlehem, “where he continues to live freely“.

The shooting is the deadliest attack Israelis have witnessed in 15 years.

Far-right extremist and Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir visited the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting but was booed away by a small crowd, who charged that the attack “happened under your watch”. He was escorted away by police.

Two injured in Silwan

On Saturday morning, a second shooting attack took place in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, injuring two Israeli settlers. The first, an Israeli army officer in his 20s on leave for Shabbat who was armed at the time of the shooting, is in a serious but stable condition, according to Israeli media. The second, a man in his 50s, was moderately wounded and is in a stable condition.

Israeli police, who “arrived quickly” at the scene due to a heightened level of alert following Friday night’s shooting, have arrested a 13-year-old boy who they say carried out the shooting, after he was shot twice by armed Israeli settlers.

According to journalists on the ground, the Shin Bet interrogated him inside an ambulance at the scene.

His family, however, deny the boy’s involvement and say he ran outside when he heard shots being fired. Mobile phone footage shared on social media show large numbers of Israeli forces entering the boy’s home in Silwan.

According to Haaretz, the child is a relative of 16-year-old Wadeea Aziz Abu Rmouz, who died on Friday night two days after being shot by Israeli forces during confrontations between local youth and the police in Silwan.

Special forces units stand at the scene of the shooting attack in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, Saturday 28 January 2023. [Source: Quds News Network]

Incitement and vigilantism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefly visited the site of Friday night’s attack but refrained from issuing any statements. He later appealed to Israelis “not to take matters into their own hands”, possibly in reference to the shooting of three Palestinian men by armed Israeli settlers in Beita south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, which occurred soon after the attack.

Activist Ghassan Daghlas urged Palestinians on Saturday to avoid roads adjacent to Israeli settlements due to an increased risk of attacks.

Several attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians across the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem were reported in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s shooting. In Bethlehem, Palestinian-owned vehicles were vandalized, while a Palestinian man was hospitalized after being assaulted by settlers near Salfit, and several children were physically and verbally abused by settlers near the Ibrahimi mosque in central Hebron.

In Beita, an Israeli settler vehicle opened fire on a group of three Palestinian men standing at the entrance to a house. All three were hospitalized, with one in a serious condition.

Following the shooting attack by the settler, confrontations erupted between local youth and the Israeli military which fired live ammunition at the crowd, resulting in the injury of another two Palestinian youths.

Confrontations in Beita were ongoing on Saturday morning when the Israeli military sealed the entrance to the town with dirt mounds. Two Palestinian journalists wearing clearly-marked protective press gear were “directly targeted” by soldiers with live fire while reporting from the scene, until they retreated.

A photograph taken by one of the targeted journalists as they were being fired at. [Credit: Wahaj Bani Moufleh]
Almog Cohen, a Member of Knesset with Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party, who praised the “nice and professional work” of Israeli soldiers during Thursday’s invasion and enjoined Israeli soldiers to “keep killing them”, had his Twitter account suspended for a few hours on Friday following his comment.

A screenshot of Almog Cohen’s tweet before it was removed by Twitter.

The context

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem are still reeling from Thursday’s massacre in Jenin, as well as the skyrocketing death toll for Palestinians within the first four weeks of the new year and Israel’s new extreme right-wing government, which has reached 32 including at seven children and a 60-year-old woman.

On Wednesday, 16-year-old Mohammad Ali was shot and killed in Shuafat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem when he carried a fake weapon.

On Thursday evening, 22-year-old Youssef Moheisen was shot and killed during confrontations in Al-Ram east of Jerusalem that erupted following the invasion of Jenin, bringing Thursday’s death toll to 10.

16-year-old Wadeea Abu Rmouz, who died last night, was himself shot during confrontations that erupted in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday evening following the announcement of the death of 16-year-old Mohammad Ali.

16-year-old Mohammad Ali (L), 16-year-old Wadeea Abu Rmouz (C), and 22-year-old Youssef Moheisen (R).

Protests, arrests, and exchange of rockets

In addition to the confrontations and protests that have been taking place across the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza, since the massacre in Jenin, protests were held on Thursday evening in several cities inside Israel, mostly attended by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

In Haifa, six protestors were detained by police for refusing to lower the Palestinian flag during the demonstration. Attorney Adi Mansour from NGO Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, was also arrested as he offered legal advice to protestors waving the Palestinian flag. Earlier this month, Ben Gvir ordered Israeli police to enforce a ban on Palestinian flags in public places.

In the wake of Thursday’s deadly invasion, the Israeli army’s Southern Command also said it was “preparing for a scenario in which Hamas, Islamic Jihad or both will fire rockets from the Gaza Strip,” according to Haaretz.

On the same day, unnamed sources who spoke to Al Jazeera said armed group Islamic Jihad had informed mediators that “if the aggression on Jenin does not stop, all possibilities will be considered.”

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Israeli air force then struck a location in Gaza “in response” to rockets fired towards Israel, it said. However, no rockets were fired from the Strip until after the first airstrike by Israel. Hamas said it had responded to the air strike with surface-to-air missiles. No injuries were reported on either side.

“Deport families of attackers”

Both Palestinian and Israeli pundits are describing the Jerusalem attacks as “the first real test” for Netanyahu’s coalition.

According to Walla News military correspondent Amir Bohbot, Netanyahu will propose arresting the families of attackers, sealing their homes, and deporting them, during a cabinet meeting due to take place this evening. He will also propose speeding up the process to acquire permits to carry weapons for Israeli civilians.

Ben Gvir called on Friday for firearm policies to be amended, and complained he wasn’t personally allowed to carry a weapon.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated today that the Palestinian Authority would press forward with their stated intention of ending the security coordination with Israel (a threat that historically either goes unfulfilled by the PA or is struck down after a short time), and would refer the case of the massacre in Jenin to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, told Al Jazeera on Friday that the invasion and killings in Jenin “violate international law and may amount to international crimes prosecutable under universal jurisdiction and the Rome statute of the ICC.”

The European Union, meanwhile, issued today two simultaneous statements concerning the massacre in Jenin and the two shooting attacks in Jerusalem.

While the first statement condemns the attacks in Jerusalem as “acts of insane violence and hate”, the statement concerning Jenin abstains from issuing a condemnation and suggests instead the death toll was the result of “legitimate security concerns” of Israel’s, “as evidenced by” the attacks which followed the next day.

A screenshot of the juxtaposed EU statements regarding the Israeli military invasion in Jenin (L) and shootings in Jerusalem (R), issued Saturday 28 January 2023. [Source: EEAS]

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