By Ali Karbalaei

Jericho under siege as Israel seeks to hide crises

May 8, 2023 - 17:10

TEHRAN- The suffocating military siege is the latest Israeli attempt to divert attention from the biggest challenges the occupation has ever faced.

Since the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the Israeli military has imposed strict restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho and its surrounding areas. 

For eleven consecutive days, the regime has set up makeshift military checkpoints at all main entrances leading into Jericho and inside the ancient city's side roads. 

Footage shows long queues of cars within the city as troops thoroughly and slowly search vehicles and passengers one by one allegedly looking for wanted suspects.

Analysts had said that the newly formed armed West Bank resistance in flashpoint areas like Jenin and Nablus may expand to Jericho, but there are no reports indicating any armed resistance has emerged from the city yet with the exception of a few retaliatory commando operations.

"I am convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within: Our own polarization and alienation from one another," Israeli President Isaac Herzog told the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Tel Aviv.As Israel fails to crush the resistance in Jenin and Nablus, since early February, Jericho and the adjacent Aqabat Jabr refugee camp have seen regular military assaults, including a massacre on the refugee camp on February 6, when the regime killed five Palestinians.

In a sign of just how frightened and fragile the Israeli security apparatus has become, it has taken the drastic measure to blockade an entire city and its surrounding areas, which Palestinian officials have slammed as collective punishment. 

Jericho is a rare route for the nearly three million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to travel to the outside world especially for medical purposes as it sits on the border with Jordan and has a crossing into the country.

On Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced that Israeli forces had shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in the Aqabat Jabr camp, south of Jericho, after Palestinian youth came out in protest at the ongoing siege. Reports say dozens have also sustained injuries with at least "three critically wounded". 

17-year-old Jibril Muhammad Al-Lada'a is the latest victim of the rising Palestinian death toll this year. Last week, Israeli forces also killed a Palestinian boy in Jericho.

So far this year, Israel has been raiding West Bank towns and cities, killing more than 100 Palestinians, many of them teenagers, and in some cases children.

This is while armed Israeli settlers have been given the green light to carry out deadly rampages throughout occupied West Bank towns and villages in vigilante-like crimes similar to that committed by the Ku Klux Klan against black Americans. 

According to UN figures, Israeli settlers carried out 314 attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank since the start of this year.

But the UN doesn't really have a presence in the occupied West Bank, so the figure and scale of the attacks are likely much higher. Most notably in February, hundreds of Israeli settlers went on a violent late-night rampage in Huwara and other Palestinian villages, leaving one civilian dead and 100 other Palestinians injured, four critically, after setting the town ablaze.

Something that finally alarmed the international community.

The settlers have been encouraged to rampage through Palestinian towns by Netanyahu's fascist ministers, whose support he relies on to avoid the collapse of the ruling coalition, a scenario that would lead to yet another Israeli election, the 6th since 2019. 

But the regime is facing multiple dilemmas. 

A newly formed West Bank armed resistance, compromising of Palestinian youth, has been carrying out retaliatory operations, leaving Israeli troops and settlers dead. 

Small commando operations in the heart of the Israeli entity have confused all its calculations and devices, and the regime has lost the advantage of air supremacy with the development of the missile force of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the axis of resistance in general.

The biggest dilemma facing Israel in its short history of occupying Palestine is that the entity could collapse from within, as it witnesses deep divisions never seen before.

The mass street protests have taken its toll on almost every sector of Israeli society. 

But analysts say there are other grievances among the Israelis that go beyond Netanyahu's plans and which have seen droves of Israelis immigrating back to where they came from. There is a lot of anxiety among the Israelis themselves who view their future in the occupied Palestinian territories with fear. 

According to a recent interview with Smadar Lavi, an American Jewish author, there are strong indications that the degeneration within the Zionist entity goes beyond the Israeli street protests but to the cores of the entity's structure itself.

She also highlights the polarization by noting that the ongoing Israeli protest movement within the entity reflects the interests of the Ashkenazi elite (settlers who immigrated to Palestine from France and Central and Eastern Europe, including Germany, Poland and Russia), who present themselves as secular and liberal, along with other groups, such as the Mizrahi Jews, who do not represent the wider Mizrahi settlers, along with a number of other smaller groups such as feminist movements. 

"I am convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within: Our own polarization and alienation from one another," Israeli President Isaac Herzog told the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Tel Aviv this week.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets on a weekly basis since the start of the year to protest plans by Netanyahu's cabinet to push through curbs on the Israeli "judiciary'.

Last month, Netanyahu agreed to pause the plans to allow for more consultation.

But that hasn't stopped the mass protests and for many Israelis the standoff has opened up intense questions about the nature of their ruling system that go beyond the makeup of the "Supreme Court" and the power of the cabinet to override its decisions. There are many other grievances in addition to a lack of security as the axis of resistance grows stronger.

Ahmad Saadat, the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has warned that mounting tensions in the occupied West Bank over Israeli raids and settler violence will almost certainly lead to a full-blown intifada.

Netanyahu and his cabinet would welcome this as they need to refocus the Israelis' mindset that their war is against the Palestinians and not among themselves. 

But this is no easy task either.

As Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhalah pointed out on Sunday, the latest Israeli crimes against Palestinians will only boost the resolve and morale to fight the occupation.

"The [Israeli] occupiers have ramped up their vicious attacks in the occupied West Bank against Palestinian activists and resistance fighters. The Zionist enemy seeks to muffle the voice of resistance and liberation,” Nakhala noted.

The unease in Israel has also spiked in recent months because of the rapprochement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The regime had sought to forge warmer ties with Riyadh against Tehran, but the opposite now appears more of a reality.

The increased resistance operations from outside the occupied West Bank and internal turmoil between so-called liberal Israelis and supporters of the far-right fascist cabinet have provided little breathing space for Netanyahu. 

He can only do what he knows best: to kill more Palestinians with the current target being Jericho.

At this time of the year, Jericho usually welcomes dozens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, who travel to the city, which is a tourist destination. So the revenue that comes with that tourism has been lost too.

But that's just the nature of a racist colonial entity. The pain it inflicts on the Palestinians comes in many forms.

Only this time, the future of the occupation looks more than doomed.

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