Israeli intelligence believes that the Palestinian Qawasmeh clan could be behind the recent killing of three Israeli Boys, says counter-terrorism expert Shaul Shay.
DW: Did terrorists from the Qawasmeh clan kill the Israeli boys?
Shaul Shay: If you ask about Qawasmeh - that's one of the suspects. I believe that there is good evidence that they are one of the abductors and murderers of the young boys. Definitely.
Why do you think that?
I trust the security services. If they declare that they or another guy are the main suspects, then they have good evidence.
Who are the Qawasmeh?
Qawasmeh is a big family; One of the three biggest familys in the area of Hebron. About 10, 000 members are in this family - and they have a long reputation of involvement in terror activities. Many in the family where members and high-ranking commanders of the Essedin-el-Kassam, the military wing of the Hamas. During the second intifada, some of them where involved in sending suicide bombers to carry out attacks in Israel.
Do you expect them to continue with assassinations now?
The potential always exists. Now, they [the two suspects from the family] are on the run and I believe that they are trying to find shelter and go underground because the Israeli services are after them. I hope, that soon, they will be captured.
Do you think that there is a danger of a third intifada?
I hope not. I mean: We are now in a very tense period. We have the assassination of the boys, we have the Ramadan, which is always a sensitive period, we have the assassination of the Palestinien boy in Jerusalem. And, of course, the escalation in the south. So this combination is explosive. But I hope, because both sides have no interest in an outscale escalation, the tensions will decrease. But I believe it will take time.
What is the situation like in Israel at the moment? Is it that tense?
As I said before, there are some areas of tension. One is in Jerusalem in the last few days. The second is, of course, in the south with the rockets we suffer from Gaza. So we have to see where we are going to be. If Hamas will do what it's expected to do, then I hope that soon the focus will return on the south. In Jerusalem, it's a matter of time until the tension is reduced.
What about Ramadan? Will Israel try to be peaceful during the fasting month?
Israel is aware of the significance of the month of Ramadan, so Israel is trying to do its best to enable the Muslim population to celebrate this. But, on the other hand, the operation to search for the murderers is still going on and as I said before: there are clashes in Jerusalem and even in other parts in the north of Israel and of course the problem of the rockets in the south. So Israel has to respond. But, we are trying to take calculated steps and not cause any more escalation so far.
How is the mood on the streets between Israelis and Palestinians?
I think the point is, the police investigation is still going on. We don't know yet what was the background of this terrible assassination of the Palestinian boy. But for the Palestinians on the streets, its not important. I mean, they blame Israel and make demonstrations and they are quiet violent. The police has to try to calm down the situation in Jerusalem. Of course we have to wait for the findings of the police investigation.
What is the Israeli government going to do next?
I think that the government of Israel is responding in a very cautious way, despite significant internal pressures. It is, however, responding more aggressively toward the rockets in the south. Israel is trying to do its best to contain the conflict and to solve it with diplomatic messages without getting into a large scale operation.
Are neighboring countries involved in any way?
I understand that Egypt is involved in the negotiation between Israel and the Hamas to try to calm down the situation. But I don't think that other countries are involved in any way. I mean, Lebanon, of course, is not part of this problem; Syria is not relevant; and Jordan is not involved in this conflict either.
Shaul Shay served as a senior career officer in military intelligence for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). He is currently a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) in Herzilya.