ISRAELI SECURITY FORCES WENT ON HIGH ALERT fearing an escalation of violence in the West Bank between Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers after a group of settlers from an illegal outpost were detained and beaten by a newly established Palestinian self-defence unit which then handed the men over to Israeli soldiers who took them into custody.
The settlers had entered the West Bank village of Qusra, near Nablus in the northern West Bank, attacking villagers and destroying their property. After numerous and repeated such incidents targeting Palestinians and their property during which the settlers' behaviour is mostly ignored by Israeli security forces who instead arrest and shoot at Palestinians, the Palestinians decided to form self-defence units. These units comprise up to 30 men, armed with sticks and rocks, determined to show that Palestinians are now hitting back and are not going to tolerate settler's raids or "price tag attacks" any longer. Village elders intervened to stop the beating, coordinating with the Palestinian and Israeli security forces to have the settlers taken into custody.
Wary of further attacks in revenge for the detention of the settlers, Israeli security officials are now afraid that the continual attacks of settlers will lead to a strong, organised Palestinian reaction that could spiral out of control and lead to a new uprising.
Already a number of Palestinian cells planning attacks against Israeli targets have been arrested by Israeli intelligence over the last few months. A Jihad Islamic cell, however, managed to place a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv in December before the members were apprehended. The bomb was discovered before it went off leading to only one injury.
Israeli security forces are also uncovering arms caches and weapons on a fairly regular basis in both East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, culminating in the perception by the Israelis that the ground is ripe for an uprising.
However, another wave of violence, which the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) dubbed "atmosphere attacks", or acts inspired by the tense atmosphere in the West Bank--by individual Palestinians unassociated with any formal groups--left four Israelis, three soldiers and one settler dead over the last six months.
Over 27, mostly unarmed, Palestinians were killed in the West Bank by the Israelis during 2013 with more killed in Gaza.
These figures exclude numerous other attempts by Palestinians to kill or injure Israelis. They...