LWhen they had dinner on Sunday night, like almost every other night in Jenin, the fighting started. The Israeli army said it had entered the occupied West Bank city to arrest three suspected Palestinian terrorists and militants responded by throwing firebombs and opening fire.
According to two members of her family, 16-year-old Jana Zakaran was venturing onto the roof of her house when gunfire erupted nearby trying to get her cat to safety. When Zakaran’s father went looking for her, he found her dead in a pool of blood, the cat by her side.
In a rare admission of error, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the teen was accidentally shot by a sniper.
“She was murdered in cold blood by the Israelis. She was alone on the roof,” said the girl’s uncle, Majed Zakaran. “She was just a kid and they shot her four times in the head and chest.”
Zakaran is the latest casualty of the bloodiest year on record in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the end of the second intifada in 2005. About 150 Palestinians have been killed, most of them in connection with a massive IDF offensive largely aimed at Jenin and surroundings. Nablus. Noted Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead while covering a raid on Jenin refugee camp in May.
The fighting has raged since March, making it one of the largest IDF operations outside of wartime, and there are no signs of slowing down. In the blockaded Gaza Strip, another 49 Palestinians were killed in August in a surprising three-day Israeli bombing campaign. Palestinian terrorist attacks have killed 30 Israelis — the most since 2008. The numbers suggest that 2022 was a quasi-intifada.
Whenever there is a wave of violence in the decades-old conflict, people on both sides of the “green line” begin to wonder if a third popular uprising is on the horizon. However, a combination of deteriorating security and political factors means a return to full-blown fighting between Israel and the Palestinians is more likely now than it has been in years. Polls released this week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 65% of people in the West Bank now support armed struggle.
Diana Buttu, a lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said: “If you look back at 2022, the numbers are very high…But this is an ongoing occupation and occupation is violent by nature. This has been happening for over five decades, so in some ways it feels arbitrary to pick a date and say, “This is a particularly bad year.”
“Having said that, it is clear that we are on a downward trajectory. I think it’s gotten to a point in Israel where they don’t see any red lines anymore. No one in Israel is now talking about ending the occupation, and no one in the international community is willing to have it stopped.”
In a statement, the IDF said: “In March 2022, a wave of terrorist attacks broke out in Israel. Following this, the IDF began conducting counter-terrorism activities at various locations in the United States [the West Bank] … based on accurate intelligence and situational assessments.
“During these activities, persons suspected of committing security crimes were arrested and many illegal weapons and ammunition were seized. We currently consider the operation a success in terms of counter-terrorism and preventing it before it happens.”
Several features of the 2000-2005 intifada have returned this year, including punishing sieges of Palestinian neighborhoods and cities and targeted killings in the West Bank. Last month, the first bus bombings in Jerusalem in years killed two Israelis waiting for the busy morning rush hour.
However, many of those fighting now are too young to remember those five years of bloodshed that claimed some 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli lives — let alone the peace process of the 1990s.
Israelis in military service are generally about 19 or 20 years old. Nearly everyone The Guardian met during visits to Jenin and Nablus this year said young Palestinians believe the only alternative is to pick up a gun, as there is no hope for a brighter future. It’s getting easier and easier: the West Bank is flooded with weapons smuggled across the border from Jordan and stolen from IDF bases.
Political developments add fuel to the fire. After 16 years without elections, the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West Bank, is viewed by most of the population as corrupt and impotent. The elderly president, Mahmoud Abbas, is in poor health and has not appointed an official successor; his downfall or death is likely to further destabilize the situation.
Most disturbing, however, is the rise of the far right in Israel. In November’s elections, the Religious Zionists, an extremist anti-Arab slate in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition bloc, more than doubled their number of seats, returning Netanyahu to power.
Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich, along with Itamar Ben-Gvir, the head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, will be given key cabinet positions in the new government, giving them expanded powers over Israel’s police and control over construction of settlements. in the West Bank, which they will surely accelerate.
The pair are also seeking to change the status quo on Jerusalem’s holy Temple Mount to allow for Jewish worship, and Ben-Gvir has said he plans to visit soon. A similar stunt by then-leader of the opposition, Ariel Sharon, in 2000 helped spark the second intifada. To Muslims, the sacred area is known as the Noble Shrine or Haram al-Sharif.
A new Palestinian uprising will not look like the two before it. The young men currently fighting in Jenin and Nablus are acting only locally for now and are not necessarily affiliated with established Palestinian militias such as Hamas’ al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and al-Qassambrigades.
Suicide bombings are unlikely to be as prominent: the third intifada is expected to rely instead on the firearms that have proliferated in Palestinian society in recent years. Israel’s use of invasive surveillance technology and its hitherto unfulfilled threat to use armed drones in the West Bank would also make it much more difficult for Palestinian factions to operate.
“The Israelis have calculated that there is a level of violence they can tolerate, but there is only so much that is within their control,” Buttu said. “There are a lot of guns in circulation right now. It is only a matter of time before the violence in the West Bank returns to them like a boomerang.”