EU, US call for calm amid escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank

AP , Ahram Online , Saturday 8 Apr 2023

Relative calm prevailed in the West Bank and Palestinian territories on Saturday after the EU and US condemned a pair of Palestinian attacks Friday that killed three civilians and wounded six more, calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

Israeli occupation police
Israeli police stand at the scene of an attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, April 7, 2023. AP


A smattering of violence continued on Saturday when Israeli soldiers raided the Arroub refugee camp in the West Bank and injured one Palestinian, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The Israeli soldiers used live ammunition, concussion bombs and tear gas, causing dozens to suffocate.

The incident highlights the ongoing tensions in the region, which saw further violence on Friday.

Israeli authorities said an Italian tourist was killed and five other Italian and a British citizen were wounded when a car rammed into a group of tourists in Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial hub.

​Police said they shot and killed the driver of the car and identified him as a 45-year-old Palestinian citizen from the village of Kafr Qassem.

In a separate incident, two British-Israeli women were shot to death near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

No groups claimed responsibility for either attack, but the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza praised both incidents as retaliation for Israeli raids earlier this week on the Al-Aqsa mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was calling up all reserve forces in Israel’s border police, a paramilitary force usually deployed to suppress Palestinian unrest.

The additional border police would be activated Sunday and join other units that have recently been deployed in Jerusalem and Lod, a town in central Israel with a mixed Jewish and Palestinian population.

Push for de-escalation

The EU and US condemned the attacks and called for de-escalation.

"The EU expresses its total condemnation of these acts of violence," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"We urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint."

The US State Department said "the targeting of innocent civilians of any nationality is unconscionable."

The country also voiced support for Israel over Lebanon, without explicitly backing the Jewish state's strikes on its northern neighbor in response to the rocket fire by militants.

"As we urge de-escalation on all sides," another State Department spokesperson said.

"The use of Lebanon as a launchpad for rocket attacks against Israel only puts Lebanon at risk and increases the potential for further conflict".

Israel had unleashed rare airstrikes on Lebanon and bombarded the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, but later in the day there were signs that both sides were trying to keep the border hostilities in check. The fighting subsided after dawn, and midday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem — a flashpoint for violence in recent days — passed peacefully.

The round of violence erupted fter Israeli riot police stormed the prayer hall of Al-Aqsa mosque on a Wednesday pre-dawn, firing tear gas and beating worshippers with clubs while they were participating in "Itikaf," a religious practice of seclusion inside mosques that is commonly observed during Ramadan.

On Tuesday, police arrested and beat hundreds of Palestinians there, who responded by hurling rocks and firecrackers at officers.

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