Five American tourists were almost lynched by a Palestinian mob in the ancient city of Hebron in Israel today.
The five yeshiva students were with driving a car on their way to the cave that houses the tombs of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat HaMachpela), when they took a wrong turn and entered the Arab neighborhood of Jabal Johar.
A mob attacked their car with firebombs and rocks, and when the Americans tried to get out of the car the Arabs torched their vehicle.
The five Americans were rescued by a local Arab resident who sheltered them in his home. Two of the students were lightly to moderately wounded in the attack.
The attack came after an IDF outpost in the area was handed over to Palestinian security forces some days ago.
The tombs of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Yacov, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are in the Jewish part of the city but Muslims are allowed to pray there daily. Jews, however, are forbidden to enter the Muslim part of Ma’arat HaMachpela where the tombs are located, except on the Pesach holiday and Succot (the feast of the Tabernacles).
The attack on these American tourists is not an isolated incident. Since the arson attack on an Arab family in the Palestinian village of Duma more than a month ago, there has been a significant increase in Palestinian violence in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), Jerusalem and along road 443 from Jerusalem to Modi’in.
For example, last week an Israeli Police officer was stabbed and injured by a Palestinian Arab and officers of the Border Police barely survived an attack in East Jerusalem. Their car went up in flames after it was attacked with several firebombs, Israeli Radio station Reshet Beth reported.
Yesterday, Israeli Police and firefighters were attacked by Arabs in the Isawiya neighborhood in East Jerusalem when they tried to rescue a Palestinian family from the roof of their apartment. The family escaped to the roof of their house to avoid smoke inhalation after the apartment went up in flames.
After they rescued the family from the roof police and firefighters were pelted with stones, Israeli Army Radio reported.
The attack on the rescuers took place a couple of hours after two Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives were badly damaged in an arson attack. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives has been the scene of Arab vandalism and harassment of Jews for a long time. Graves are routinely vandalized or defiled and burials can only be hold with security escorts provided by the Israeli government.
As a result of the increase in Palestinian violence the Israeli government decided to boost police presence in Jerusalem and is contemplating easing the rules of engagement for IDF soldiers in confrontations with Arab stone throwers.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu held a special meeting with members of the Israeli security cabinet yesterday to address the situation. “The policy is zero tolerance for stone-throwing and zero tolerance for terrorism,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting.
“Since the legal system is finding it difficult to deal with stone-throwing by minors, changing open-fire orders regarding the throwing of stones and firebombs will be examined, as will be the imposition – by law – of minimum sentences for those who throw stones and firebombs,” a statement of the Prime Minister’s Office said after the meeting.
The Israeli government has come under increasing pressure from the IDF and Jewish citizens living in Judea and Samaria to treat stone throwing and fire bombs attacks as attempt to murder. Most of these attacks are carried out by minors, often as young as eleven or twelve years old.
Arab youths are often encouraged to engage in these attacks by Palestinian terror movements, but also by the Palestinian society that sees this form of ‘resistance’ as an elementary part of the education and the upbringing of children.