Israel fears new uprising by Palestinians

Fears of a new Palestinian 'intifada' have been stoked by a shooting rampage at a Jerusalem yeshiva.

Israel fears new uprising by Palestinians

Fears of a new Palestinian "intifada," or uprising, have been stoked by a shooting rampage that left dead eight Israelis at a Jerusalem yeshiva, raising the death toll from militant attacks since Jan. 1 above the total for all of last year.

Israel's army yesterday closed Palestinian areas of the West Bank and banned young men from attending Friday services at the mosques on the Temple Mount in the Old City.

After hours of silence, Hamas took responsibility for the carnage Thursday inside the prominent Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, the Ha'aretz newspaper reported on its Web site. But the Associated Press later reported that Hamas had backtracked on their claim.

"There may be a later announcement. But we don't claim this honor yet," said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas' military wing.

The attack came on the heels of an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip that Palestinian officials say killed more than 120, including a disputed number of civilians. The campaign targeted militants who have been barraging southern Israel with rockets. Four Israelis have also been killed in fighting since last week.

After the number of Israeli fatalities from militant attacks dropped to a pre-intifada low of 13 for all of 2007, the eight deaths on Thursday pushed the toll in the first three months of this year to 14, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Web site.

The site lists six persons killed earlier this year, including two soldiers who died in an exchange of gunfire with Hamas militants during a March 1 operation in northern Gaza.

WORST ATTACK IN FOUR YEARS IN JERUSALEM

Government officials expressed concern that the string of militant successes — from the worst attack in four years in Jerusalem, to a bombing in the southern city of Dimona, to the continued rocket barrage on cities near the Gaza Strip — is liable to inspire additional violence.

"Unfortunately, that is the desire of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They want a new wave of violence in Israeli cities and a new wave of terror," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"There was a clear message: that there's a need to embark on an all-out war to rein in terror," Rabbi Yacov Shetenberg, a member of the yeshiva faculty, told Israel Radio. "At the funeral, all of the yeshiva heads said we need to stop talking and to start fighting."

'ISRAEL SHOULD RETAKE GAZA STRIP'

Parliament member Yuval Steinitz of the right-wing Likud party concurred, warning that if Israel doesn't retake the Gaza Strip and deal a decisive blow to Hamas, "everything is possible."

"The fact that Hamas took over Gaza, and has succeeded in setting up a base like Hezbollah," he said.

ONE OF THE VICTIM IS U.S. CITIZEN

Officials identified one of the victims of the yeshiva attack as 16-year-old Avraham David Moses, a U.S. citizen whose parents moved to Israel in the 1990s, the Associated Press reported. The State Department confirmed an American was killed.

The bomber was identified as Alaa Abu Deem, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Banners of Hamas and Hezbollah were hung inside the mourning tent at the family's house.

Though Abu Deem arrived at the scene of the attack on his own, Israel's police are still investigating whether he had strategic support from militant groups. Israel's police chief, Dudi Cohen, tried to dampen speculation that the bombing was a sign of a new uprising, saying it was an isolated incident.

Meir Javedanfar, a Tel Aviv-based Middle East analyst, speculated that Hamas is still more interested in breaking its international political isolation than embarking on a new uprising.

'THEY ARE NOT READY TO BURN BRIDGES YET'

"They are not ready to burn their bridges yet, and if they have an intifada that could be very likely and it could lead to their collapse," he said.

And yet, in a news analysis in the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot, analyst Amir Rappaport speculated more attacks were in the offing.

The Washington Times
Last Mod: 08 Mart 2008, 14:56
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