Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday blamed “Islamic extremist elements” for the escalation of violence in Jerusalem, saying they were trying to ignite the holy city.
"[T]here are various radical Islamist forces at work here who are trying to burn down Israel's capital,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting.
“We will not allow the reality of Jerusalem to become one of throwing stones and firebombs, and disturbances. This is not coincidental,” Netanyahu said according to a posting on Twitter by his staff.
A picture taken overnight on October 26, 2014 shows a Palestinian stone-throwing protester amid smoke during clashes with Israeli police in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. At least five Palestinians were arrested during fresh clashes overnight Sunday in east Jerusalem, where hundreds of extra police have been deployed to tackle mounting unrest, authorities said. Photo: Ahnad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
The prime minister said Israeli police were bolstering their presence in the capital city by more than 1,000 officers following days of rioting by Palestinians.
Palestinians aim to establish east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Among the violent incidents in recent days: Wednesday’s terrorist attack by a Palestinian driver who rammed into a group of pedestrians killing a 3-month-old baby girl who was a U.S. citizen; Palestinian youths on the Mount of Olives who blocked roads with trash bins behind which they threw stones and Molotov cocktails; widespread rock throwing by Palestinians in other east Jerusalem neighborhoods, damaging the light rail system.
On Saturday, protesters in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan threw rocks and firecrackers at a tractor deployed by the city to clear the roads of stones thrown at police a day earlier, the Times of Israel reported.
The unrest has sparked a debate among Israelis and Palestinians asking whether the violence marks the beginning of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar on Saturday called it an “intifada,” a characterization disputed by Israeli officials.
"Escalating the resistance in the city is the solution to Israeli aggression," Zahar told the Hamas-linked news outlet Al-Risala, Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported.
Zahar also criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ security forces for coordinating activities with Israel.
"The people in the West Bank are fighting on two fronts: the first is the Israeli occupation and the second is the Palestinian Authority's security forces,” Zahar said.
But a senior officer with the Israeli police said the violence did not mark an intifada, suggesting it would soon fizzle out.
“There is no intifada here,” Police Major General Aharon Eksol on Sunday told the Israeli website NRG, as translated by the Times of Israel. “There is primarily a weakening sense of security as the result of a few riots and small incidents in different places, that demand a police response in a few locations throughout the capital.”
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, on Thursday called the volatile situation in Jerusalem a “ticking time bomb” that could spark a third intifada, even if it is not officially one now.
Police official Eksol said that the police force in Jerusalem was bolstered to 2,000 officers at all times.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told the Times of Israel on Thursday that the violence had become intolerable.
Jerusalem officials on Sunday criticized the Tel Aviv school system for canceling middle school trips to the capital in response to the violence, Israel’s Army Radio reported.
Hamas called on Palestinians to continue protesting in response to the killing Friday of 14-year-old Orwa Abd El-Wahab Hammad, who holds U.S. citizenship.
The Israel Defense Forces said the youth was shot as he was moving to throw a Molotov cocktail at cars driving on Highway 60 near Ramallah.
Arutz Sheva quoted a Shin Bet report on Jerusalem which concluded there had been a major increase of security-related incidents, “from 22 incidents in May and June to 152 in July and August, a whopping 509% increase," Arutz Sheva observed.