Unrest worsens as death toll rises, attack hits Jerusalem

2015-10-10 12:38
A Palestinian youth uses a slingshot to throw a stone towards Israeli security forces during clashes near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Hebron. (Hazem Bader, AFP)

A Palestinian youth uses a slingshot to throw a stone towards Israeli security forces during clashes near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Hebron. (Hazem Bader, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Violence between Israelis and Palestinians threatened to spiral out of control on Saturday after unrest spread to Gaza, the Palestinian death toll rose and a new stabbing by a 16-year-old in Jerusalem.

While Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have sought to avoid an escalation, frustrated Palestinian youths have defied efforts to restore calm and a wave of stabbings have spread fear in Israel.

A rocket fired by Gaza militants hit southern Israel on Saturday hours after clashes along the border saw Israeli forces open fire and kill seven Palestinians.

The rocket caused no damage and there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Israel regularly responds to such rocket fire with air strikes, but had not done so by Saturday morning.

Gaza Strip 'mainly peaceful'

Rioting has shaken annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, with Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli security forces, who have responded with live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

A 22-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli police during clashes in east Jerusalem late on Friday died of his wounds on Saturday. According to police, he had opened fire at security forces at the Shuafat refugee camp.

The Gaza Strip had been mainly calm amid the unrest elsewhere, but Friday's clashes further heightened fears that a wider Palestinian uprising, or intifada, could erupt.

Clashes broke out on Friday east of Gaza City and Khan Yunis along the border with the Jewish state.

The Israeli army said there had been "multiple violent attempts to storm the border fence" and "1 000 rioters infiltrated the buffer zone," throwing a "grenade, rocks and rolled burning tyres" at the soldiers.

"After firing warning shots, forces on site responded with fire towards main instigators in order to prevent their advance and disperse the riot," a statement said.

Seven Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old, and 145 were wounded, medics said.

It was the worst day of violence in the Palestinian enclave since last summer's war with Israel, which killed more than 2 200 and left 100 000 homeless.

The clashes came as Hamas's chief in Gaza, Ismail Hainya, called the violence an intifada and urged further unrest.

'Popular uprising'

Hamas, which rules Gaza, remains deeply divided from Abbas's Fatah, based in the West Bank.

Some have called for coordination in order to build a resistance movement, but it is unclear whether the various Palestinian factions would be able to do so.

"It's not important whether we call it an intifada or a popular uprising," Fatah official Mahmud al-Alul told AFP. "What's important is that the people and all the movements are united on the ground."

Saturday's stabbing attack just outside the Old City in east Jerusalem wounded two ultra-Orthodox Jews aged 62 and 65, police and medics said.

Frustrated youths

Police said they shot and killed the 16-year-old Palestinian attacker, identified as Ishak Badran of Kafr Aqeb in east Jerusalem.

It was the 13th stabbing attack targeting Israelis or Jews since 3 October, when a Palestinian murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem's Old City, setting off a security crackdown.

One revenge stabbing has occurred, with a 17-year-old Jew in the southern Israeli city of Dimona wounding two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis on Friday. Police said he told them he carried out the attack because he believed "all Arabs are terrorists."

Netanyahu quickly condemned the attack by the Jewish youth, a sign of concerns that it could trigger further violence.

Abbas has spoken out against violence and in favour of "peaceful, popular resistance", but many youths are frustrated with his leadership as well as Israel's government.

In Washington, the US State Department said it regards the stabbings and shootings of Israelis by Palestinians as "acts of terror", though spokesperson John Kirby would not be drawn on whether the attack by the Jewish teenager was also terrorism.

Read more on:    mahmud abbas  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  palestine  |  gaza

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