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Further escalation in tensions between Israel and Palestine

Israeli police patrol in Jerusalem AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced plans to install security cameras along roads in the occupied West Bank. His remarks came amidst rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, days after two settlers were gunned dead by suspected Palestinian militants. Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said that he wanted to avoid an escalation of violence with Israel.

Escalation of the conflict could be difficult to prevent. On Tuesday, bulldozers of the Israeli army destroyed the houses of two Palestinians who were involved in attacks against Israelis.

“This is collective punishment of Palestinian civilians that Israel is carrying out, and this is a violation of the Geneva Conventions,” Amjad al Shawa, of the Palestine NGO Network, told RFI.

“The people of Palestine have suffered long years of such violations committed by the Israelis, in Gaza as well as in Jerusalem. And these violations are being committed while the international community is keeping silent,” he says.

Israeli observers don’t agree with this reading. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have their own narrative.

“What we see today, the violence, is another wave of violence,” says Mordechai Kedar, a political scientist with Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, claiming that the Palestinians alone are to blame for the current tensions.

“Sometimes it is an all-out war, sometimes it is a terror war, sometimes it is boycotting us, with cocktails that burn people, with shooting, with stabbing. We know all these kinds of jihad which we are the victims of for many, many years,” he says.

He rejects the notion that retaliation against the families of attackers constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

“They stab us and they kill us, while when we demolish a house, nobody is killed,” he said.

“This is a mild way to convince the jihadist to stop the jihad against us. It is not easy, we know, but we are not killing them in masses as other nations are doing.”

But Palestinian observers point out that the root of the problem lies deeper.

“After 22 years of Oslo Agreements, it has become clear that Israel has violated every agreement. [Israel has] not implemented most of the clauses in the Oslo Agreement, and they have obstructed any possibility for a peaceful negotiation,” says Moustapha Bargouti, the founder of the Palestine National Initiative.

“What you see today is a Palestinian response, mainly with non-violent methods, to this Israeli aggression.

"I’ve been today at a demonstration at Khalandia checkpoint. It was only a peaceful, non-violent demonstration and we were encountered with attacks from the army with sound bombs, with bullets and with tear gas.

“But it is becoming clear that the Palestinians are sending one very clear message: that we cannot tolerate occupation which has lasted for more that 48 years.”

In spite of the increased tensions, there are still unofficial contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, "but much less than before”, says Bargouti.

He says that a decision by the Central Council of the PLO was taken to review completely all of the security coordination with Israel.

“In general, Israel is destroying every possible bridge by their actions against the Palestinian people,” he says.