Palestinian stabbings defy Israeli efforts

2015-10-08 21:42
Israeli riot police walk at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound - one of Islam's holiest sites. (Ahmad Ghabrali, AFP)

Israeli riot police walk at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound - one of Islam's holiest sites. (Ahmad Ghabrali, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Three new stabbings wounded Israelis on Thursday and an assailant was shot dead as a spate of such attacks spread fear and defied attempts by authorities to contain Palestinian unrest.

The stabbings - raising to at least eight the number of attacks since Saturday - have deeply unnerved Israelis and authorities have struggled to prevent them, with the suspects often young Palestinians believed to be acting on their own.

Violence has also spread in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, sparking fears of a broader uprising, even a third intifada.

The first attack on Thursday saw a Palestinian stab a 25-year-old Jewish man in Jerusalem, leaving him in serious condition. The 19-year-old attacker was arrested.

Later in the day, an Israeli soldier and three passers-by were stabbed in Tel Aviv and the attacker was killed.

The suspect stabbed the victims, who were lightly wounded, with a screwdriver before another soldier in the area shot him dead, police said.

They did not provide further details on the Tel Aviv attacker apart from identifying him as a "terrorist".

In the third attack, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli near the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, the military said. The victim was seriously wounded and the attacker fled.

The spate of stabbing attacks began on October 3 when a Palestinian killed two Israelis in Jerusalem's Old City, prompting an Israeli security crackdown.

Violent demonstrations in east Jerusalem and the West Bank have seen youths throwing stones and fire bombs face off against Israeli security forces firing rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Fresh clashes broke out at the Bet El checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday.

'Maximum alert'

Over the past week, four Israelis have been killed along with at least five Palestinians, three of them after alleged attacks on Israelis.

The toll does not include Thursday's attacker in Tel Aviv as it was not yet confirmed whether he was Palestinian.

According to the Red Crescent, 86 Palestinians have been wounded by live fire and 344 by rubber bullets in clashes since October 2.

Authorities have wrestled with how to respond, with far-right politicians calling for forceful action and security officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas seeking to avoid an escalation.

Security measures were further tightened on Thursday, with at least one metal detector set up in Jerusalem's Old City at a main entrance and police stationed on rooftops.

"Israeli civilians are at the forefront of a war against terrorism and must also be on maximum alert," Netanyahu said Wednesday after visiting a Jerusalem police headquarters.

Some Israeli mayors, including the mayor of Jerusalem, went as far as to encourage residents who own guns to carry them around with them.

Abbas spoke again on Thursday of wanting "peaceful, popular resistance" and not violence, but many Palestinian youths are frustrated with his leadership as well as Israel's right-wing government.

Netanyahu postponed a visit to Germany that had been scheduled for Thursday to tackle the violence.

Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly met for security talks in the West Bank on Tuesday evening, and there have been international calls for calm.

Temple Mount ban

Three of the stabbings have struck in the heart of Israel and sparked deep concern in the Jewish state, including Thursday's attack in Tel Aviv.

On Wednesday in the central town of Kiryat Gat, police shot dead a Palestinian man after he allegedly wounded a soldier with a knife and seized his gun, authorities said.

In Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, also on Wednesday, a Jewish man was wounded in a knife attack outside a shopping centre, police said. The assailant was overpowered by passers-by and arrested.

In a bid to calm tensions, Netanyahu has barred members of parliament and ministers from visiting the Old City's Al-Aqsa mosques compound, which has seen repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian youths in recent weeks.

Provocative visits by Israel's Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel as well as by Israeli Arab lawmakers have added to the volatility.

But the Arab lawmakers have vowed to defy the order and plan to make a joint visit to the compound, which is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Muslims fear Israel will seek to change the long standing rules governing the site, which allow Jews to visit but not pray to avoid provoking tensions.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is committed to the status quo.

An increase in visits by Jews during a series of Jewish holidays in recent weeks has added to tensions.

Read more on:    mahmud abbas  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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