Since 2007 the U.S. has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training and equipment for Palestinian Authority security forces. Reports of rampant torture in the prisons run by these forces, and warnings by Israeli military and other figures of the danger posed to Israel, have gone unheeded.
Early Sunday morning the danger grimly materialized. At least one PA policeman opened fire on a group of Israeli worshipers in Nablus in the West Bank, killing one and wounding four, including one seriously.
It appears to have been little short of an ambush. The worshipers, who were from the Breslav Hasidic sect, were driving back in a three-car convoy from Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus — a site where, according to Jewish tradition, the biblical Joseph is buried.
According to one report, the convoy:
… encountered a surprise checkpoint and [was] met with a hail of gunfire from a Palestinian jeep. The fire continued even after the vehicles turned back in an attempt to escape. Two of the three vehicles were hit.
As one of the Hasidim put it:
The police shot at the vehicles, they were screaming “Allahu Akbar.” It was crazy, they were shooting to kill. I screamed at the driver to drive out of there quickly.
The Hasid who was fatally hit was Ben Yosef Livnat, 25, married with four children, and nephew of Israeli Minister of Culture Limor Livnat. Eulogizing him at his funeral the same day, she said:
My brother’s son was murdered by a terrorist masked as a Palestinian police officer.
Shortly after the attack a crowd of Palestinian youths set fire to Joseph’s Tomb (report and video here). It was hardly the first time, the tomb having been burned to the ground by a Palestinian mob in a famous incident in 2000, early in the Second Intifada, and desecrated many times since then including with graffiti drawings of swastikas.
Among the reactions by Israeli politicians, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the fact that the worshipers did not coordinate the visit with the Israeli army could hardly justify the attack, and demanded that the PA swiftly investigate it and punish the perpetrator(s). Based on the PA’s record going back to the days of its former Chairman Yasser Arafat, it’s impossible to be optimistic.
Member of Knesset Danny Danon:
… called on the U.S. to reconsider its funding of the Palestinian security forces, as well as the training exercises that it does with them. He passed this request on to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
This incident comes at a time of mounting terror and brutality both in Israel and the region as a whole. Since last month Israel has witnessed the Itamar massacre of five members of a family, a bombing of a Jerusalem bus stop that killed a tourist and wounded about 50 other people, and numerous projectile attacks from Gaza including the firing of an antitank rocket at a school bus that killed a 16-year-old Israeli boy.