Terror attack in Tel Aviv: One dead, 17 injured – first Nakba Day victims
Aviv Morag, 29, from Caesaria was killed shortly before his marriage and 17 injured – two in serious condition – after being run down by an Israeli Arab, 22, from Kafr Qassem in Tel Aviv, Sunday, May 15. The killer's truck swerved left and right along 2 kilometers of busy road aiming at vehicles and pedestrians – from the Mesubim junction to Bar-Lev Street in Hatikva Quarter. After knocking over a traffic light, the driver jumped out and shouting Allah Akhbar! used the pieces to beat passers-by who eventually overpowered him.
The police arrived later. When apprehended the driver claimed he lost control of his truck after his front wheel punctured. But eye witnesses described him as deliberately ramming 13 vehicles as well as striking pedestrians.
A second Israeli Arab driver from Arara detained as his suspected accomplice claimed he was not involved in the incident. Police cordoned off the area to traffic.
In Ramallah, 20,000 Palestinians rallied in the main square opposite the tomb of Yasser Arafat under the slogan: "The people want to go back to Palestine."
Israeli troops fired in the air when Palestinians from Gaza forced their way toward the Erez crossing. Casualties reported.
Lebanese pro-Palestinian demonstrators mustered by Hizballah at Maroun a-Ras were stopped from crossing the border into Israel Sunday by the Lebanese army. Israeli troops are on high border alert.
debkafile reported Saturday night: Israeli security forces are braced for a multi-front challenge on Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) Day Sunday, May 15, which marks the partial Palestinian exodus during Israel's War of Independence: In addition to guarding against Palestinian and Israeli Arab demonstrations tipping over into disorders, they are ranged on the borders of the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria to thwart plans for manufacturing a link-up between those demonstrations and the Arab Revolt.
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel rallies in those Arab countries, which erupted Friday night with demonstrators mobbing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, are planned to head for Israel's borders for a riotous rendezvous with Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators. Syrian authorities are especially keen on the plan as a diversion from their universally condemned crackdown against their own protesters.
Israel will stay on high security alert for at least the next ten days. Saturday night, the IDF imposed an indefinite closure on the West Bank. debkafile's military sources report that its security chiefs are acting on information that Palestinian leaders and their Arab supporters plan to calibrate the level of their disturbances to influence the watershed events taking place in Washington this week – in particular US President Barack Obama's speech Thursday, May 19, in which he will discuss the new US-Muslim relationship following Osama bin Laden's death.
Israeli official sources are counting on the Jordanian, Egyptian and Lebanese authorities restraining unruly elements from surging across their borders into Israel, but the IDF high command and police are not sanguine.
Israeli intelligence has information that Palestinian leaders believe that if Israeli police and troops can be goaded into firing live ammunition by exceptionally violent disorders on the West Bank and Israeli Arab districts, Obama will be forced to bring up the Palestinian issue in his speech or, even better, tie it in with the bin Laden operation.
The US President receives Jordan's King Abdullah II in the White House May 19, the only Muslim leader he sees before delivering his speech. Obama meets Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the following day, Friday, May 20.
Some Israeli intelligence quarters are convinced that wholesale disturbances fit in with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' plans in two ways:
1. They generate the right ambiance for the diplomatic campaign he is running up to September for the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state within 1967 borders and its capital in Jerusalem. By keeping the street violence going well beyond Nakba Day, he is trying to offset Israel's partially successful bid to dissuade the United States and most of West Europe from endorsing his motion.
The Obama administration has not yet indicated whether the US will support Abbas' initiative or abstain, a decision that will influence the European governments which are still undecided about whether or not to follow Germany's decision to vote against the Palestinians. An American decision to abstain would bring the undecided Europeans down on the side of the Palestinians.
Even with majority UN endorsement in the bag, the Palestinian motion needs the votes of the US and the main European powers to give it international political ballast; the resolution would not be taken nearly as seriously if it were carried by only second-string international players like Switzerland, Sweden, Africa and Asia. Abbas believes that a cascade of violent Palestinian demonstrations and plenty of blood on the streets would persuade the key voters to jump off the fence.
2. Mahmoud Abbas hoped that after signing a pact of reconciliation between his Fatah and Hamas he would be allowed to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for the first time since they fell out four years ago. But no invitation reached him in Ramallah. By letting Palestinian rioters loose on West Bank streets, he is showing up Hamas' limitations by demonstrating that he alone is capable of challenging Israel in the mode and spirit of the Arab Revolt.
He and his Fatah leadership showed their mettle by staging riots in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Galilee Friday and Saturday, May 13-14 before Nakba Day.
Friday, Milad Said Ayash, 17, died of a bullet wound from a source still not established during a clash in Silwan, Jerusalem sparked by Palestinians hurling firebombs and rocks at Israeli police. The Palestinians accused one of the security guards at the Israeli residential Beit Yehonatan of shooting the boy and declared him "the first shahid (martyr) of the Third Palestinian Intifada" against Israel.
Israel's Housing Ministry officially later denied that any weapons were fired by the guards or the Israeli occupants of the building. Israel was refused access to the boy's body for an autopsy as part of its probe into his death.
Saturday night, Palestinians in two more Jerusalem suburbs, Shuafat and Issawiya, attacked Israel policemen and injured two.
For Sunday, therefore, Israeli security forces are braced for disorders in three centers: the West Bank, Arab Israeli districts and Jerusalem. The disturbances are expected to carry over into the rest of the week.
Information reaching Israel from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria Saturday night pointed to hectic preparations afoot for big demonstrations on their borders with Israel Sunday with a view to surging across.