Israel goodwill Ramadan efforts cut after Palestinian attack
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel revoked on Sunday the permits of 200,000 Palestinians to enter Israel that were approved for the holy month of Ramadan following two near simultaneous Palestinian attacks on police that killed a young female officer near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israeli defense body COGAT, posted the announcement on its Arabic language Facebook page. Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that preparations are underway to destroy the homes of the Palestinian attackers and tighten security at the entrance to the Old City, home to sensitive holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Three Palestinian attackers armed with an automatic weapon and knives assaulted officers on duty near the Old City in two locations Friday evening.
Police said Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was rushing to respond to that initial attack nearby when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife. Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him, police said. She later died of her wounds in hospital.
The Islamic State group took responsibility for the attacks but two Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine quickly retorted the three attackers were their members and accused IS of trying to undermine their efforts.
Thousands attended her funeral Saturday night. Netanyahu visited her grieving family on Sunday. He said Malka is “everybody’s daughter and everybody’s hero.”
Earlier, at his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu lashed out at Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for not condemning the attack.
Israel had previously announced its annual goodwill measures for Ramadan that included 200,000 thousand visiting permits for family visits for Palestinians from the West Bank and access for 100 Gaza residents to attend prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
COGAT said the visiting permits were canceled but the prayer permits remain unchanged.
There was no official comment from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Osama al-Qawasmi, a spokesman for Abbas’ Fatah party said “When Netanyahu ends his occupation all the problems will end, but as long he continues occupation and land confiscation and building settlements on our land ... the conflict will continue.”
Friday’s deadly attack affected thousands of families across the West Bank who planned to visit relatives over the Ramadan holiday.
Layali Othman, 37, from Ramallah said her family received a permit for the holiday and had planned to visit Jaffa and Jerusalem.
“We are sad, that was the only opportunity for the kids to see the sea and see Jerusalem,” she said.
Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian government for not condemning the attack.
He called for the world to “demand the immediate cessation of Palestinian Authority payments to the families of terrorists, something that only encourages terror.”
Israel has long unsuccessfully pushed for the Palestinians to halt the “martyrs’ fund” payments to roughly 35,000 families of Palestinians killed and wounded in their long-running conflict with Israel, including suicide bombers and other militants.
Last week U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Palestinians had agreed to stop the payments but both the Palestinians and Israel disputed the claim.
Israel argues that such pay promote violence. It stepped up a campaign against the fund after a wave of Palestinian attacks began in September 2015.
Since then, Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British student, mainly in stabbing, shooting and car ramming attacks. In that period, some 250 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Israel identified most of them as attackers.
At times the attacks were daily occurrences, but they have relatively subsided in recent months. However there have been a string of recent attacks near the Old City in east Jerusalem.
Israel captured the territory with its key holy sites from Jordan in the 1967 war.
Israel considers the city its eternal, undivided capital while Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The fate of the area is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded on social media sites that glorify violence and encourage attacks.
Palestinians say it stems from anger over decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for their state.
Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.