The Economist‘s Middle East blog: In Cities across the West Bank, Palestinian youth inspired by the fighting in Gaza have been skirmishing with Israeli forces as a new spirit of activism takes hold. Clouds of tear-gas hang over the night-time streets of Bethlehem and Qalandia, the main terminal blocking the West Bank’s access to East Jerusalem, as Israeli soldiers seek to disperse demonstrators. Increasingly, the army resorts to lethal force to repel Palestinians hurling Molotov cocktails so numerous they are reaching intifada levels. Casualties are rising as the army deploys reservists, often ill-trained in crowd control to replace soldiers transferred from the West Bank to the Gaza front. Two Palestinians have been killed following clashes in Hebron, a southern West Bank city and the stronghold of the clan of Ahmad Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing, whose assassination on November 14th led to the Israeli offensive, and Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah.
With Palestinians in the West Bank rallying in support of Gaza, West Bank politicians talk of an approaching intifada to match those that began in 1987 and in 2000. Israeli observers speak of mounting concern that their country’s assault on Gaza could precipitate a new wave of West Bank unrest. In an attempt to contain it, Israel’s security forces have detained dozens, including in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians have also rallied in support of Hamas. The streets of the old city and the adjoining neighbourhood of Silwan echoed with gunfire in the evening of November 16th as police sought to disperse protesters distributing sweets in celebration of a rocket that landed on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Hamas possesses only a minute fraction of Israel’s fire power, but its rocket attacks on Israel’s cities, including its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, are winning it renewed support amongst Palestinians, gleeful that in however small a measure, their armed militias are redressing the balance of fear.
“No longer are we just helpless refugees,” says Mahmoud, a shopkeeper on Saladin Street, the main shopping district of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. “After years of going nowhere, we are starting to look as if we have an army of our own.” Elsewhere on the street, moneychangers put out bowls of sweets for their customers. My normally dour falafel-fryer shook my hand in delight. “Now it is not only Palestinians who are afraid,” he said. [Continue reading…]