Slain American Tourist Puts Spotlight On Stabbing Attacks In Israel
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Israel, there has been a six-month wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. One this week seems to have reverberated more loudly than most. A Palestinian man stabbed and killed an American visitor and hurt about 10 others in the coastal town of Jaffa, then police shot and killed the attacker. Today, authorities are looking into whether he could've been subdued without being killed. We're joined on the line now by NPR's Emily Harris in Jerusalem. Hi, Emily.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What makes this recent attack different?
HARRIS: Well, if you look at the basic elements of the attack, all of these elements have happened before. There have been attacks in this part of Israel, the Tel Aviv area, which normally doesn't actually see the conflicts so up close. There have been attacks in rapid sequence. There were other attacks that day, and that can create a sense of coordination, although there's no evidence that that's happening.
And this is not the first time that an American's been killed in this upsurge of violence, but it is different in a way. It happened at the beach. It was one Palestinian man, really, on a stabbing spree, wounding about 10 people. I spoke to witness there, a woman named Emily Young. She had tried to help one of the people who was stabbed, and as it happened, she was also on a bus a couple of months ago where an apparent bomb was found before it could explode. Here, she's talking about trying to help that victim of the stabbing attack Tuesday.
EMILY YOUNG: You know, he was covered in blood. I was covered in blood. At one point, he lost consciousness and just fell over on my leg. And I mean, it seemed like he was hanging on for life, and that is something that I didn't experience on the bus.
SHAPIRO: Wow. The prevailing notion, Emily, has been that Palestinians carrying out these attacks are acting alone. Does that still seem to be the case?
HARRIS: Generally, yes. Israel is largely still characterizing the attacks that way. But an Israeli military spokesman did tell me last week that over the past five or six months, soldiers have exposed four of what he called explosive laboratories in the West Bank. He said that these were initiated by the militant group Hamas, and he said that in at least one case, they had picked someone to try to carry out a suicide bombing. So some Israelis are warning that more violent attacks could be in the works.
SHAPIRO: It is really hard to stop someone from getting a kitchen knife if they intend to attack someone. What is Israel doing?
HARRIS: Well, over the past five or six months, they've been arresting lots more Palestinians, temporarily sealing towns that Palestinian attackers come from, arresting the relatives of attackers. Then after Tuesday's attacks, Israeli media reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to crack down on other things - for example, the thousands of Palestinians who enter Israel without a permit to work, to curtail other permits and to finish building a wall, a separation barrier that goes around much of the Jerusalem area. Netanyahu is also coming under harsher political criticism and pressure since Tuesday, especially from right-wing politicians who want him to be even tougher.
SHAPIRO: Vice President Biden was actually in Israel on Tuesday not far away from the attack that killed the American, and Biden talked about condemning those who don't condemn these attacks. What does he mean there?
HARRIS: Well, Biden spoke right after Netanyahu - specifically criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. Israelis sees Abbas as encouraging attacks. But even Israelis debate what the real cause of this wave of violence is. Is it a new generation of Palestinians raised to hate Jews, as one Israeli newspaper editor told me? Or has this generation of young Palestinians who are carrying out most of the attacks facing no options, as an Israeli security analyst said to me?
SHAPIRO: NPR's Emily Harris speaking with us from Jerusalem. Thanks, Emily.
HARRIS: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.