In the last two months women have accounted for about 20 percent of all Palestinian attackers. Many of the assailants, often teenagers, appear to be acting on their own or without consulting male authorities — a rarity in their patriarchal society. Much of the recent violence in Palestine is due to controversy around the Al Aqsa Mosque: the mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam, but sits on the site of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Increasingly, Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have been forcing their way into the mosque compound and performing “Talmudic rituals” despite the mosque’s ban on non-Islamic prayer. The entry of Palestinian Muslim worshippers to the site has also been increasingly restricted, feeding Palestinian fears that Israel plans on dividing the site between Muslims and Jews. Those fears, in addition to the ongoing dispute between Palestine and Israel, have translated into a leaderless surge in violence that has seen more than 20 Israelis killed. More than 100 Palestinians have died during the same period, many in the process of attacks or violent demonstrations. Some activists believe the police are acting with undue force: 15 women have tried to stab Israeli soldiers and civilians since October, and, although none of the attempts resulted in the death of the victims targeted, nine of the women attackers were shot dead on site.
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