Towards a new intifada of stones?

Haaretz reports that Israeli security officials think a new "stone intifada" may be underway in the West Bank:
After a few relatively quiet months following the pullout from Gaza, a large number of incidents are now being reported daily. Many consist of what the Shin Bet security service calls "popular attacks" - stone-throwing, Molotov cocktails and stabbings that are not planned by any organization.

The Israel Defense Forces are reluctant to describe these incidents as a change in the trend, saying more data are required to indicate a real change. The settlers, however, have no doubt that traveling in the West Bank has become more dangerous, at least in terms of the risk of stones and firebombs.

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Is the popular uprising - "the intifada of stones" - returning? Such attacks are what characterized the beginning of the first intifada (1987 to 1989). The second intifada, which erupted in September 2000, passed rapidly to the firearms stage. But a new popular uprising could fit the spirit of the times, following Hamas's electoral victory and the uncertainty over the Palestinian Authority's future.

Military sources told Haaretz that incidences of stone-throwing, firebombs, and attempted stabbings and shootings have increased in the last two weeks. During this period, 50 firebombs were thrown, compared to 35 in the previous two weeks. There were also 39 incidents of violence or damage to property, compared to 26 in the previous two weeks, and 225 stone-throwing incidents, compared to 200 in the previous two weeks.

The number of shooting incidents rose from 26 to 37 in the last two weeks, and the number of bombs from six to 15.

Senior officers believe things will get worse in the coming months. They say Hamas has an interest in fostering the popular uprising as a way of maintaining the struggle against Israel without being accused of violating promises to cease terror. This also enables it to pressure Israel on internationally sensitive issues such as construction of the separation fence.
I am not sure what these attacks can achieve (at least without parallel diplomatic tracks), but I can only see it as a positive development that resistance activity is moving away from attacks Israeli civilians and suicide bombings and towards occupation forces and settlers in the West Bank.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.