Jan 18, 2021

While not willing to call it an intifada, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel must prepare for further escalations in violence.

“We must prepare for the possibility of escalation, and that is why we are reinforcing the forces in order to bring about a larger presence,” he said early Tuesday.

In his visit to the Etzion Bloc, site of Monday’s stabbing attack which left one young woman dead and two others injured, Ya’alon encouraged people to remain calm.

“We’re in the midst of an escalation, and won’t allow it to widen,” Ya’alon promised. “We’ve reinforced our deployment….We’re making more arrests. We’ll use a strong arm, including demolishing terrorists’ houses…The fate of any terrorist who raises his hand with a knife or uses a car to run people over is death.”

Ya’alon  urged people not to take actions which would provoke further attacks. “We’re discouraging visits to the Temple Mount…The Temple Mount was always a sensitive site. It has been the focus of previous escalations,” he noted.

He said that the Palestinian Authority was making similar efforts, though he warned it may not be enough. “The Palestinian Authority is operating on the ground in an attempt to calm the spirits, but various statements, including those made by the Authority chairman [Mahmoud Abbas], bring about the grave actions.”

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Recent weeks have seen increased tensions spilling into violent attacks. Stabbings at two different locations on Monday left IDF soldier Almog Shiloni and young woman Dalia Lemkus dead. Several others were killed in two separate incidents over a span of two weeks in which Arab drivers ran over pedestrians waiting for the light rail in Jerusalem. Riots, rock, Molotov cocktail and firework attacks are also on the rise.

In response, the Israeli defense establishment has deployed 2,000 troops across Judea and Samaria to beef up security. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an expanded police presence has been added in major cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Additional Iron Dome batteries are being set up in “sensitive locations”, including the Haifa area, in response to unspecified security assessments.

Ya’alon warned that Israel could expect rockets in solidarity with attacks in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. “There is concern over symbolic solitary rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip as an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as we saw last weekend in Eshkol with the rocket fire carried out by Islamic Jihad,” he said, adding that, “If Hamas could carry out attacks in the West Bank, it would.”

A senior defense official stated that intelligence suggesting a possible rocket attack from the north could turn out to be wrong, but it is better to be safe than sorry.