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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, July 19, 2018

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Deep divisions in Israel in aftermath of Tel Aviv shootings

Shootings were widely condemned around the world

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TEL AVIV, Israel - Embittered Israeli officials have lashed out at the reaction at home and abroad to the shootings in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, which claimed the lives of four Israeli civilians.> Big News Network

The deep divisions have spread through Israel with the mayor of Tel Aviv blaming the occupation of the Palestinian territories as the underlying cause of the recent surge in violence, while a government official has responded by saying the mayor is "delusional."

The shootings were widely condemned around the world on Wednesday night and on Thursday. U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in on the attacks after a State Department statement officially condemned them. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were quick to condemn the attacks and the attackers, while Mr Trump described a Hamas official as "despicable" for praising the two cousins from Hebron who carried out the attacks.

On Thursday the UN Security Council in an unprecedented move condemned the attacks, the first time the international body has issued a condemnation statement since the current wave of violence began in September last year.

On Friday however the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein expressed concern at Israel's response to the attacks which has included raids on the village Yatta where the two attackers live, an order for the demolition of one of the attacker's homes, the cancellation of 204 work permits held by people associated with or related to the assailants, a travel ban on 83,000 Palestinians during Ramadan, and the complete barring of entry to Israel from the West Bank and Gaza through until Sunday.

"We are also deeply concerned at the response of the Israeli authorities, which includes measures that may amount to prohibited collective punishment," the human rights chief said in a statement delivered by his spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani at a press conference in Geneva.

"This will only increase the sense of injustice and frustration felt by Palestinians in this very tense time."

The Jerusalem Post took issue with Zeid's statement which it said referred to the shooters as "alleged attackers," saying this was despite the fact that the two 'were caught on video with their guns.'

Zeid condemned the attacks noting they resulted in, "the largest loss of Israeli life in a single attack since the current surge in violence."

"Israel has a human rights obligation to bring those responsible to account for their crimes, however, the measures taken against the broader population punish not the perpetrators of the crime, but tens, and maybe hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians," he added.

Israel's diplomatic mission to the UN in Geneva angrily denounced Zaid's statement saying, "it breaks a new record of cynicism and double standards."

"The OHCHR is using the murder of innocent Israelis to attack Israel. Once again, instead of putting itself by the side of the Israeli victims, it settles for a forced, weak condemnation, and rushes to defend the terrorists," the mission's statement said.

"Like any other country in the same situation, Israel is taking legitimate steps in order to defend its citizens from terrorists who are backed by the incitement and the glorification of death and martyrdom, inflated by the Palestinian leadership and society."

The 71-year old Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, a former fighter pilot and general, was outspoken on Thursday about the government's decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories and in his view, its part in the current ciycle of violence.

"We, as a state, are the only ones in the world with another people living among us under our occupation, denying them any civil rights," he said. "The problem is that when there is no terrorism, no one talks about the occupation."

"Nobody has the guts to take a step towards trying to make some kind of final status arrangement. We are 49 years into an occupation that I was a participant in, and I recognize the reality and know that leaders with courage just say things," the Tel Aviv mayor said.

Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan called the mayor "delusional."

"I heard the mayor of Tel Aviv saying the 'occupation' is to blame, or that it's because we don't have a peace treaty with the Palestinians, and that's why we have terrorism," he said in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies. "I want to remind him that there was terrorism here 100 years ago, and in 1929 Jews were murdered in a massacre in Hebron and there was no State of Israel. There wasn't even an 'occupation.'"

The Tel Aviv mayor however is not alone in his views. According to Ynet news, Arab mayors and Jewish tourists convened a special meeting in Taibe on Thursday night to discuss the situation. They later issued a statement of condemnation of the attacks.

"Despite the hard days, we need to deal with the difficulties and to overcome them. We condemn any act of killing innocent people on both sides. The occupation needs to end so that peace can survive and we will be able to live in peace," Taibe Mayor Shua Mansour Masarwa said at the meeting.

"I call to every moderate person in the country and say to them that it's important for us to denounce and to overcome extremism and hate to continue our lives in the best way and without violence," he added, noting that in his city, "Here, we respect each other, and every Jewish or Arab visitor feels at home."

Nasreen Morcus from Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, was critical of the timing of Wednesday night's attacks in Ramadan. "We condemn the attack and oppose associating the month of Ramadan with it. This month is one of spirituality and patience, and what happened in Tel Aviv does not represent Islam. The Sikkuy association is making every effort to promote coexistence in the country."

Imad, a resident of the Triangle said, "We, the Arab citizens, are part of the country of Israel, and we won't accept acts of terrorism that destroy everything for us. This attack won't contribute anything and will only complicate matters and put us in an extremely difficult position. In the end, it's we, the Arabs, who pay the price for an act that we didn't want, that was carried out by two people who, in my opinion, don't deserve air to breathe."

Kfar Kassem resident Adel Badir said, "As citizens of the country, we strongly condemn any active attack against civilians, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured. These incidents will not change the relations between the two peoples, and we will continue to live in peace."

"On both sides, there are people who carry out criminal acts, and it shouldn't affect everyone. The Arab population has been hurt more than it hurts, and everybody wants to live a normal life. We are not a party to any conflict," he added.

Newly-appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was unequivocal. "Those who yesterday tried and succeeded in placing innocent Jews in harm's way, they and their families have been made to pay the price," he said Thursday.

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