Tourist killed in Jaffa as border fire ebbs

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  April 7, 2023

The likelihood of an imminent major Israeli escalation appeared to recede as quiet prevailed over Gaza’s northern and Lebanon’s southern boundaries late Friday and there were no major incidents at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during the day.

But the situation remains volatile after an alleged attack in the coastal city of Jaffa late Friday and the shooting deaths of two Israeli-British dual nationals in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day.

Israeli media reported that a 30-year-old Italian tourist was killed in an alleged car ramming attack in Tel Aviv’s beach promenade late Friday. That site is built on the remains of Al-Manshiyya, a once thriving neighborhood of the Palestinian city of Jaffa that was ethnically cleansed and then destroyed by Zionist militias in 1948.

Five other tourists were lightly to moderately injured, according to Israeli media reports.

Footage from the scene shows a vehicle speeding on a sidewalk and driving onto a park before flipping over:

Another video shows police firing several times at someone who is lying prone on the ground, suggesting that the driver of the vehicle, seen flipped over in the clip, was extra-judicially executed:

Police claims lack credibility

Israeli police claim that when the vehicle overturned, the driver attempted to get out and shoot at the group of tourists struck by his car, though that is not evident in any of the footage of the incident.

Israeli police routinely lie regarding the circumstances in which alleged Palestinian attackers are killed and cover up footage that contradicts their narrative of events.

Israeli media reported that the driver, who died from his injuries, was from Kafr Qassim, a Palestinian city in Israel. He was identified as 44-year-old Yusif Abu Jaber.

However, questions were raised over the identity of the driver, who may have been operating a stolen vehicle, after Israeli forces raided Abu Jaber’s home in Kafr Qassim.

A relative of Abu Jaber, a married father with five daughters, told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz that his family “cannot believe he did such a thing, it’s inconceivable that Yusif, a very quiet and respectful person, would do it.”

The relative added that “he never showed any radical signs, and he’s never had any ideological background.”

Israel’s claim that the incident in Jaffa was an attack should be treated with skepticism given the police’s lack of credibility, and the long history of Israeli forces killing supposed Palestinian assailants later shown to not have been waging any such attack.

Overnight Thursday, Jewish extremists attacked Kafr Qassim, torching two cars and spray painting the phrase “price tag” – a term Jewish settlers and extremists use to describe sometimes lethal attacks on non-Jews and their property, especially Palestinians – and a Star of David near the vehicles.

Kafr Qassim was also the site of the massacre of nearly 50 Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli forces who were unaware of a recently announced curfew in October 1956.

Hamas said that the “operation” in Jaffa demonstrated the ability of the resistance to “strike the occupation” and was a response to Israel’s “crimes at al-Aqsa.”

West Bank shootings

If the Jaffa crash was indeed deliberate, it would be the second fatal attack in Israel so far this year; an Israeli man died from his injuries after being shot by a Palestinian assailant in the Tel Aviv area last month.

It would bring to a total of 19 the number of Israelis and foreign nationals killed in Palestinian attacks since the beginning of the year, or succumbed to wounds sustained previously. The vast majority of these fatalities occurred in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

And if Abu Jaber is the driver who was killed, it would also be the second case of Israeli police shooting and killing a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship in the past several days, both cases potentially involving police fabrication to justify an execution after the fact.

So far this year, a total of 94 Palestinians, including 17 children, have been killed by Israeli soldiers, police and armed civilians, or died from injuries sustained previously.

Earlier Friday, two sisters aged 15 and 21, originally from the UK and living in Efrat settlement near Bethlehem, were shot and killed while traveling in a car in the northern West Bank. Their mother was critically injured.

The gunman or gunmen evaded capture by Israeli forces and a manhunt was underway, the Israeli military said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Overnight Thursday, Israel bombed what it said were Hamas targets in Gaza and south Lebanon following rocket fire from those places. Meanwhile, police brutalized worshippers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque for the third night in a row on Thursday.

A senior Hamas official told the BBC on Friday that the resistance faction would hold fire so long as Israel refrains from attacking.

Israel was meanwhile reportedly keen to avoid a wider conflict, especially with Lebanon’s formidable Hizballah, which dealt Tel Aviv an unprecedented military defeat in 2006. The Walla news outlet reported that ministers instead preferred a limited response to recent rocket fire.

Children’s hospital damaged in Gaza

Al-Mezan, a Palestinian human rights group in Gaza, said that the intensive Israeli strikes throughout the territory over several hours early Friday spread terror among the population.

The attacks damaged dozens of houses, the rights group said, as well as the Muhammad al-Dura Children’s Hospital in Gaza City.

That facility is named for a Palestinian child who was shot and killed by Israeli troops in an infamous incident recorded on video by a news crew in the first days of the Second Intifada that began in September 2000.

It is not the first or even the second time that the children’s hospital has been damaged by Israeli bombing.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that 130,000 worshippers prayed at al-Aqsa on the third Friday of Ramadan despite Israeli repression and restrictions on entry.

More than 2,300 Israeli police were deployed to the gates to Jerusalem’s Old City, according to WAFA and Israeli media outlets.

WAFA said that Israeli police prevented men under the age of 40 from entering al-Aqsa for dawn prayers on Friday, assaulting some worshippers and vendors at a gate to the holy site.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada