“Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them any more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Yes, clouds – and semi-stormy looking clouds at that! Now, I think these are the first “storm” clouds I’ve seen since I’ve arrived. There is no rain at all during the summer months. None. Ever. It is straight sunshine all the time. There are usually no clouds to even see in the sky. The winter here is also the rainy season, so winter months are supposed to be really fun (note the sarcasm), but I can’t comment on that until I feel it for myself. Something to look forward to! But never fear, there won’t be any rain today either.
But maybe the clouds are fitting for the awful news from yesterday out of Hebron. Four Israeli settlers, one of whom was pregnant, were shot and killed while driving in their car on Route 60 just outside of Hebron. The militant wing of Hamas (Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades) claimed responsibility for the shootings. This event, less than a day before Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet in Washington DC, ruins years relative calm of the West Bank.
Some background for those of you interested: Some Israeli settlers live in a tiny enclave inside Hebron under the close protection of Israeli army forces, amid Palestinian residents. Israeli army sources have said that all four victims were Israelis from the nearby Beit Haggai settlement. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip (splitting from the Palestinian Authority government in 2006) opposes the peace talks and is not taking part. It says Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls the West Bank, is a traitor for talking to the Israelis about a peace deal.
But, the claim of responsibility by Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades contradicts recent Hamas signals that it would deter militants from conducting attacks on Israel of the type that triggered Israel’s military assault of the winter of 2008-09, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. This opens the question of who authorized the killings and whether Hamas is really more divided than previously thought. Like all generalizations (all Americans eat fast food; all French people are mean; all of Hamas thinks the same…), the assumption that Hamas is a monolithic group where all agree on everything is just wrong.
Tuesday’s attack was the most lethal in the West Bank in four years. In the Palestinian second intifada (2000-2007), some 540 Israelis were killed in suicide bomb attacks and more than 4,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.
And in response, last night, Palestinian security forces arrested more than 150 Hamas members in an overnight sweep throughout the West Bank to send a message to its Hamas rivals and to Israel that it is committed to the peace talks.
Additionally, USAID has funded a public service campaign, with billboard and TV ads of Palestinian ministers stating their commitment to the peace talks, reiterating they are a partner for peace, and asking Israelis to partner with them. Here are two clips: here and here. Quite a lot of controversy over these ads as some feature Palestinian leaders apologizing for the lack of peace in the last 17 years, and many Palestinians do not feel like their leaders should be apologizing to Israelis.
Definitely an interesting time to be here. For the most part, I feel a little removed from it; Ramallah is such a bubble away from the reality of the rest of the West Bank!
- You: Four Israelis shot dead near Hebron (guardian.co.uk)
- Jewish settler killings blight new Mideast talks (reuters.com)
- Palestinians crack down on Hamas after shooting (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Palestinians Crack Down On Hamas After West Bank Shooting (huffingtonpost.com)
- US seeks Middle East peace effort (bbc.co.uk)