No let up in terror as the new year begins

AS he celebrated the start of 2016, Alon Bakal texted his father saying: “I love life.” The next day, his life was cruelly taken by a terrorist in a Tel Aviv bar.

The new year in Israel has started with new terror. Last Friday’s attack didn’t only prompt mourning in Tel Aviv; it also left the city in fear, as the gunman escaped alive, armed, and according to police likely to strike again.

A massive manhunt has been taking place, many parents have been keeping their children home from school, and in this “city that never stops” people have limited their daily activities and public places like restaurants and cafes are notably quiet.

Even on Tuesday this week, when police finally indicated that they believed the gunman had left the city, Tel Aviv was less packed than normal. There was a heavy police presence, with officers stationed on streets and manned police vehicles on highways.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning residents of Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv, were thrown into fear when the family of an Arab Jerusalemite told police that he had stormed out of his house and said that he was going to commit an attack in Herzliya. After a manhunt that saw the city grind to a halt police found him and arrested him.

This week also saw two stabbings against soldiers in the West Bank and two attempted stabbings in Jerusalem.

In the past four months the terror campaign has resulted in 120 stabbings, 46 shootings, 30 car-ramming and 78 fire-bombing incidents with 282 people wounded and 28 murdered.

In response to the Tel Aviv attack, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Shin Bet security agency and the country’s top politicians will work around the clock to support the police.

“When it’s hard, we don’t get tired. We work harder and when it’s hard we don’t sleep,” Netanyahu said.

He welcomed the news that members of Israel’s Muslim community had denounced the violence, but said there is “wild radical Islamic incitement against Israel in the Arab sector”.

“There is incitement in mosques, in the educational system and in social media,” said Netanyahu.

Insisting there can not be two states of Israel, he declared: “One cannot say ‘I am an Israeli in rights and a Palestinian in obligations. Whoever wants to be Israeli should be an Israeli all the way, both in rights and in obligations, and the first and highest obligation is to obey the laws of the state.”

His comments came under fire from a number of quarters, with many claiming they merely fuelled the tensions between Jews and Arabs.

NATHAN JEFFAY & JOSHUA LEVI