The violence challenged Israel’s new hardline government and cast a shadow over a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region on Sunday. He will likely discuss the root causes of the conflict that continues to fester, the agenda of Israel’s new far-right government, and the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end security coordination with Israel in retaliation for the deadly incursion.
Israel’s rescue service MADA initially confirmed five dead and said the injured included a 70-year-old woman in critical condition and a 14-year-old boy in serious condition. A hospital later said a sixth person had died.
Police said the shooter had been “neutralized,” a term usually meaning he was killed. However, there was no official confirmation.
At various locations in the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians gathered in spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate the attack in Jerusalem, with some coming out of dessert shops with large trays of sweets to hand out. Similar celebrations were reported in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The attack came amid heightened tensions. Palestinians marched in anger on Friday as they buried the last of 10 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire a day earlier.
Clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters after the burial of a 22-year-old Palestinian north of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, but calm reigned in the disputed capital and blockaded Gaza Strip for most of the day .
Thursday’s raid on the Jenin refugee camp degenerated into a firefight that left at least nine Palestinians dead, while clashes elsewhere killed a tenth. Gaza militants then fired rockets and Israel launched airstrikes at night — but exchanges were limited.
The Biden administration has been deeply engaged with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent days, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, underscoring the “urgent need for all sides to de-escalate to avoid further loss.” of civilian lives and to work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.”
“We are deeply concerned about this escalating cycle of violence in the West Bank and the rockets apparently fired from Gaza,” Kirby said. “And, of course, we condemn any action that further escalates tensions.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s defense minister ordered the army to prepare for new attacks in the Gaza Strip “if necessary” – which also seemed to leave open the possibility that the violence might subside.
While residents of Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank remained tense earlier Friday, midday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, often a catalyst for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, passed in relative calm.
At the 22-year-old’s funeral, crowds of Palestinians waved the flags of both Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, and militant Hamas, which rules Gaza. In the streets of the city of al-Ram, masked Palestinians threw stones and set off fireworks at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas.
But both the Palestinian missiles and the Israeli airstrikes seemed limited to prevent them from turning into all-out war. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
The Friday night shooting, come on the Jewish Sabbath, immediately changed the equation.
Israeli opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, called it “horrific and heartbreaking”.