Media reports indicate three Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli security forces after two separate but allegedly coordinated attacks on Israeli border police near Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, June 16. In one incident, a person armed with a knife stabbed and seriously injured a police officer on Sultan Suleiman Street near Damascus Gate. The attacker was shot and killed and the officer was taken to the hospital where she reportedly later died from her wounds. At nearby Zedekiah’s Cave, two attackers, one with a knife and the other with a homemade submachine gun that reportedly jammed, attacked a group of officers who opened fire and killed the attackers. Four others sustained moderate injuries during the attacks.
A Jerusalem police official claimed that the attackers were all young men from the West Bank who arrived earlier in the day for Ramadan prayers. Israel relaxed restrictions on Palestinians’ movement to and from the West Bank during the holy month of Ramadan, as has been done in previous years. It is possible these policies will be modified or revoked in the wake of the violent incidents. Damascus Gate has been the site of several attacks over the past two years.
Ramadan is a period of reflection and self-restraint and it carries great significance within the Muslim calendar. Muslims traditionally observe daytime fasting and are called to practice increased devotion and abstain from certain activities.
Longstanding political and social tensions between Israelis and Palestinians contribute to frequent security incidents of varying severity, with an increased risk surrounding holidays and important dates. Israel claims that these incidents are largely the result of the Palestinian Authority (PA) fueling social unrest with calls to protest, whereas Palestinians criticize what they describe as an illegal occupation by the Israeli population. Tensions have been mounting since a December UNSC resolution condemned Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as illegal; meanwhile, Israel continues to regularly demolish homes owned by Palestinians.
Individuals in Israel and the Palestinian Territories should avoid affected areas, monitor the situation, and remain vigilant. With regard to the holy month of Ramadan, although fasting is not strictly enforced as it is in some other countries, it is advised not to eat, drink, or smoke in public throughout this period in more conservative Muslim neighborhoods or areas. Travelers are also advised to allow additional time for travel and to avoid any form of public demonstration or public gathering.
On a related note, due to the prevailing threat of terrorism, individuals throughout Israel should report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and always be on guard when visiting sites deemed particularly vulnerable to an attack (public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, markets, hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners/Westerners, festivals, etc.).