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Uncertainty Surrounds Current Palestinian-Israeli Conflict


We're also tracking days of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the Israeli response have escalated tensions and left dozens dead. Today, an Israeli soldier was stabbed. The soldier survived the attack, we're told. Officials say it was committed by a Palestinian disguised as a news photographer. NPR's Emily Harris reports on the mood in Jerusalem.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Messele Mamo is waiting for the bus outside his home, the bus on the line where two Palestinians shot and stabbed passengers last week. They killed two Israelis and wounded at least five. Mamo, an Israeli Jew, was home when that happened, heard the shots and ran outside.

MESSELE MAMO: That was a shock.

HARRIS: His home and the spot the bus was attacked are both a few hundred yards into East Jerusalem, across the old armistice line that used to divide the city into Jordanian and Israeli territory. In 1967, Israel captured all of Jerusalem. Now Mamo lives across the street from the Palestinian neighborhood where police say the bus attackers came from. Since that happened, all the roads in and out have been barricaded with Israeli soldiers standing guard. But Mamo doubts this measure will help.

MAMO: These peoples are all over. It doesn't matter whether you close this or there or down there. It doesn't matter. They're living among us. They are here.

HARRIS: Case in point, as we speak, a city bus that serves Arab neighborhoods pulls up. Half a dozen Palestinians get out, cross the street and make their way down the hill to their homes.

MAMO: Here are Arabs' bus.

HARRIS: This is an Arab bus?

MAMO: Yeah.

HARRIS: What do you mean?

MAMO: Arab city bus.

HARRIS: So can you ride on that bus?

MAMO: They don't mind if you want.

HARRIS: Do you ever ride on the Arab bus?

MAMO: No. No, no. There's no reason.

HARRIS: Even though this Arab bus stops right in front of his house, Mamo says it doesn't go where his routine takes him. This is contemporary Jerusalem, Palestinians and Jews living apart yet intertwined. The cleaners in Mamo's building come from the Palestinian neighborhood across the street. He's heading to work at a hospital where Jewish and Palestinian doctors and nurses work side-by-side. The last thing Mamo says as he gets on his city bus is that it's just not a good idea, in his opinion, to close down Palestinian neighborhoods. There are innocent people, he says, among the few that he calls evil.

Ellie Amar and his family live in a Jewish settlement that Israel considers part of Jerusalem. He agrees the barricades might not do much good. But he has hope for other measures the Israeli government is pursuing aiming to deter Palestinians from carrying out attacks.

ELLIE AMAR: They must understand that if they're doing it, their parents going to suffer. Their brother going to suffer. This is, I think, the only thing that might going to help because...

HARRIS: Israel's interior minister plans to revoke the residency rights or possibly citizenship of Palestinians or Arab Israelis who are convicted of attacks. The government is also considering taking away government assistance, such as health care, from the families of Palestinians who carry out attacks. Amar has changed his routine these recent weeks so he can pick up his son from school. The 12-year-old used to take the bus.

AMAR: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Foreign language spoken, laughter).

HARRIS: Besides school and work, Amar says, the family is mostly staying home.

AMAR: Forget about my kids - that they are not leaving the house. Even for us, we are not going unless we must.

HARRIS: Neither is Ahmed Manasra, a Palestinian man who lives in a different part of town. Two of his nephews have been accused of committing a recent stabbing. Normally, he would go to the center frequently, but not now. He says he's not afraid, exactly.

AHMED MANASRA: (Through interpreter) I prefer not to go into Jerusalem because I don't know what I'm going to meet on the road. It's a sense of panic or of fear, yes, but also just anxiety. It's a precaution for our safety.

HARRIS: Last night, the garden of a restaurant in Central Jerusalem was mostly empty despite lovely weather. Jewish owner Yehuda Aslan says the current jump in violence feels different from the second intifada a decade ago. Then, he says, there was a pattern, and he knew what to do.

YEHUDA ASLAN: When it was the bombing, the bus bombing - OK, we don't take the bus. And then it started in the cafe. OK, we'll put a guard. Now where to be safe? You cannot really catch someone, OK, carrying a knife.

HARRIS: And he cannot - he says he does not want to - be fearful of the Palestinians with whom he shares this city. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
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