Ominous signs of renewed cycle of violence in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

There are fears of further violence. Credit: AP

Within 48-hours, both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have suffered the biggest loss of life in a single incident for more than a decade.

And among the many ominous signs right now is the absence of co-operation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to calm down what is obviously a powder keg situation.

The murder of seven Israelis leaving a synagogue in East Jerusalem at the start of their Sabbath is something that any Israeli government would have to respond to with action on the ground.

But today’s government is the most hardline in the country’s history and it will be under pressure from its supporters to hit back particularly hard.

A tit-for-tat cycle of violence now looms and only improved relations between the two sides at leadership level can prevent it.

Israeli police called the attacker, who killed seven people, a terrorist - as Mark McQuillan reports

But the gulf between them has rarely been wider. Earlier this month the Israeli government cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA), undermining a weakened institution yet further.

For it’s part, the PA decided to withdraw security co-operation with Israel following Thursday’s Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank. It’s reported that eight Palestinian militants were killed along with a woman caught in the crossfire.

The Israelis say the operation prevented an imminent terrorist attack.

Hamas say the shooting outside the synagogue in Jerusalem was retaliation, however Israel will argue there is no comparison between a pre-emptive assault to stop a terrorist attack and the murder of civilians outside their place of worship.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to make a scheduled visit to the region before the uptick in violence, but now his intervention is needed more than ever.

Police securing the sight after the shooting at a synagogue. Credit: AP

No doubt he will urge restraint, but this Israeli cabinet might not listen. The government has already made clear it wants to expand the divisive settlements on the West Bank.

The ministers now in charge of the police and the settlement project have repeatedly been referred to in some of the left-leaning Israeli newspapers as pyromaniacs, and right now they really are playing with fire.

At the helm is the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He empowered the zealots with whom he now shares the cabinet table. But can he restrain them?

And on the Palestinian side, does the PA have the power to prevent the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad from going on the offensive?

Mr Blinken, America’s top diplomat, will be tested indeed.

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