The Sparks

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Israel raised the nationwide alert level to the highest level possible for the first time since last year’s war against Hamas in Gaza following a series of deadly attacks that have raised fears of a new round of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians just before Passover, Easter and Ramadan, the New York Times reported.

The army sent reinforcement to the occupied West Bank, where a gunman behind an attack on Tuesday resided. The assailant killed five, marking the fifth attack in less than two weeks.

Tuesday’s attack followed one by two Islamic State sympathizers who killed two police officers in northern Israel Sunday.

The new wave of violence has killed 11, most of them Israeli Jews but also two foreigners and members of Israel’s Arab minority.

Though no one has claimed responsibility, a number of Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, praised Tuesday’s attack.

A Hamas official said the shooting was a response to a historic diplomatic summit between Israel and four Arab countries, a meeting that – to the dismay of Palestinians – boosted Israel’s regional legitimacy.

Even so, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the shooting, as did a prominent Arab-Israeli politician.

Meanwhile, officials worry that the new spate of violence could escalate with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan later this week: Ramadan is frequently a period of heightened tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. This year, the holy month will converge with the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian Easter.

The rare occurrence could lead to more Muslims, Jews and Christians gathering at shared religious sites in Jerusalem.

Israel had tried to ease certain tensions in the buildup to Ramadan by approving more work permits for Palestinians in the occupied territories. Israel’s Supreme Court also postponed the evictions of a number of Palestinian families in an East Jerusalem neighborhood that became the flashpoint for last year’s Gaza war.

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