A Hamas cell’s violent terrorist attacks left three Israelis dead in the West Bank, Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Hamas alleges new information about botched Gaza raid.
Three Israelis Killed in West Bank Attacks
The Israeli army is clamping down on the West Bank after a violent string of terrorist attacks left a four-day-old baby and two IDF soldiers dead and several others wounded.
Both deadly attacks had similar tactics. A group of civilians and soldiers waited near a bus stop. A car pulled up, and a terrorist opened fire before quickly speeding away.
In the first attack on Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist with links to Hamas wounded seven Israeli civilians at a bus stop outside of the Ofra settlement in the West Bank. Two of the wounded were soon to be parents—the pregnant woman gave birth prematurely, and her baby boy died three days later.
The next attack also happened near the Ofra settlement on Thursday when a Palestinian gunman disembarked from a vehicle, opened fire, and left two Israeli soldiers dead, fleeing the scene with one of their weapons. They have been identified as twenty-year-old Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef and nineteen-year-old Sgt. Yosef Cohen.
After both of these incidents, the IDF launched raids in Ramallah and other Palestinian villages. During the raids, the IDF reported that security forces apprehended forty suspects wanted for involvement in terror, thirty-seven of them are known Hamas operatives. The Israeli military said the attacks were from a Hamas cell inside Israel leading to targeted operations against that cell. The Jerusalem Post reports that during one arrest operation, Salah Barghouti, the son of a prominent Hamas member and suspected shooter in the Ofra attacks, was shot and killed as he attacked Israeli troops and tried to escape arrest.
On Thursday, following the deadly shootings and subsequent raids and arrests, Fatah, a Palestinian nationalist party, called for Palestinians to enter the streets and confront IDF soldiers to escalate the situation.
A Hamas spokesman praised the attacks saying it "is in response to the crimes of the Zionist occupation in the occupied West Bank. Our members will stand against the occupation and will resist it—until it ends."
Despite the calls to action by both Hamas and other Palestinian factions, riots and protests in the West Bank on Friday did not overwhelm Israeli security forces. They only amounted to several hundred protestors.
The Jerusalem Post reported clashes across the West Bank with one Palestinian teen reported killed in Jalazone north of Ramallah. In addition to the IDF and Border police dispersing rioters, Palestinian Security Forces also cracked down on pro-Hamas demonstrations—a symptom of the ongoing feud between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Tensions, however, have not yet cooled. Near Ramallah, a Palestinian stabbed a soldier and hit him in the head with a stone, seriously injuring him before fleeing the scene on Friday morning.
In response to the string of attacks near settlements, on Friday settlers arguing that the government is not doing enough to protect them held multiple protests across the West Bank to demand increased security and attempted to shut down the road to Palestinian traffic.
Australia Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, or Did It?
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Saturday, but in the same declaration reaffirmed Australia’s support for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem under a two-state peace deal.
"What we are saying is we've got to move this forward. This rancid stalemate has to be broken," Morrison said in an address to the Sydney Institute on Saturday. "This is our contribution of innovative, measured thinking about how we think this can move forward, but in part calling it out and daring to ask the question which others don't seem to want to ask."
Australian SBS news reports that the Australian embassy will remain in Tel Aviv for now and that the possibility remains that East Jerusalem will one day be recognized as the Palestinian capital in line with the government’s branding of this move in support of a two-state solution.
The formal recognition almost follows the example set by the United States earlier this year, but the omission of an Israeli East Jerusalem has put a significant damper on the usual Israeli accolade to such an announcement.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the move “a step in the right direction,” but Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation and a close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Australia had made a mistake.
“To our regret, within this positive news they made a mistake,” Hanegbi said, according to Reuters. “There is no division between the east of the city and west of the city. Jerusalem is one whole, united. Israel’s control over it is eternal. Our sovereignty will not be partitioned nor undermined. And we hope Australia will soon find a way to fix the mistake it made.”
A lukewarm Israeli reaction isn’t the only feedback Australia has received. It’s close, Muslim-majority neighboring states, such as Malaysia, said the announcement was “premature and a humiliation to the Palestinians and their struggle for the right to self-determination.”
Indonesia, Australia’s immediate neighbor and the world’s most populous Muslim nation, also condemned the idea.
All that said, Morrison has stood by the decision despite seeming to please nobody, and said that Australia would continue to respect a two-state outcome, according to the Times of Israel.
In addition to scouting out sites for a West Jerusalem Australian embassy in the event of a two-state reality, Australia is also ready to “establish a trade and defence office in West Jerusalem. With deepening defence industry ties and Australia-Israel trade now running at over $1.3 billion per year, this will help continue to build our strong bilateral trade relationship."
Gaza Raid Fallout, Collaborators to Be Executed
Weeks after an IDF undercover operation in the Gaza Strip was blown wide open resulting in a firefight and massive escalation in violence inflicting casualties on both sides, more information about the initial operation is slowly being revealed.
From a mix of Hamas and Israeli sources, that all must be taken with a grain of salt, a picture is forming of what actually happened. The latest: Hamas says it seized a “Tech Asset” they described as a real treasure that exposes the IDF's methods, according to Ha’aretz. That claim is in line with the Israeli explanation that the team was working on installing listening devices as part of an intelligence-gathering operation.
Besides the disastrous operation—loss of an officer and subsequent flare of violence—Hamas also reportedly dismantled a network of Palestinians who were collaborating with Israel. They have sentenced five of those Palestinians to execution, according to the Times of Israel.
The raid and fallout of this operation have added to the fuel of the weekly Gaza border protests that started with the “Great March of Return” in March. This week, an estimated 10,000 gathered near the border rioting at several locations. The Jerusalem Post reports that Molotov cocktails and grenades were allegedly thrown at Israeli positions along the fence, though none landed in Israeli territory. The IDF responded with live fire and tear gas wounding forty-six according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.