US tourist killed in Tel Aviv stabbing spree

2016-03-08 22:16
Israeli security forces stand at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. (Thomas Coex, AFP)

Israeli security forces stand at the scene of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. (Thomas Coex, AFP)

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Tel Aviv - A Palestinian went on a stabbing spree along the Tel Aviv waterfront on Tuesday as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the city, leaving an American tourist dead and 12 people wounded, police said.

The attacker from the town of Qalqilya, in the occupied West Bank, was shot dead by police, Israeli authorities said.

Video that spread online showed a man running down a road and lunging at someone through a car window while being chased.

The attack caused panic, and one witness told Israeli television he hit the assailant with his guitar, with a hole visible in the wood of his instrument.

Police said the attacker wounded a number of people in the Jaffa port area, a touristic zone of Israel's commercial capital, before going on toward a restaurant and stabbing others.

There were no details on the American's identity.

Biden met former Israeli president Shimon Peres after his arrival at a location about a 15-minute walk from where the stabbings occurred.

"I heard two guys screaming that there was an attack," said a woman who gave her name as Emily.

"I ran in the opposite direction and ran into a man who was on the ground in his blood."

She said she "covered him with my jacket. He was badly injured and we waited together for the ambulances to come".

A wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories since October has killed 184 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

Others were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes or demonstrations.

Four separate assaults

Biden is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday.

The White House has said Biden will not be pursuing any major new peace initiatives during his visit despite the wave of violence.

The number of attacks had diminished recently, but there were four separate assaults on Tuesday.

Two occurred in Jerusalem, including one that saw a Palestinian shoot and seriously wound two Israeli police officers before being shot dead.

Earlier, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab Israeli police forces in Jerusalem's Old City before being shot dead.

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jew in a liquor store in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv.

The victim and owner of the shop pounced on the attacker, seized his weapon and killed him, police said.

Police said they suspected it was a "terrorist" attack, but had not excluded other possible motives.

Before Tuesday's violence, Biden's visit had been overshadowed by a new blow to the rocky relationship between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's decision not to accept an invitation for talks with Obama in Washington later this month "surprised" the White House, which first learned of it through news reports.

The Israeli premier's office defended the decision by saying Netanyahu did not want to interfere in US presidential primary elections.

Obama and Netanyahu's testy personal relationship was worsened by the Israeli premier's forceful opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, including in a speech to the US Congress.

But they have sought to set aside their disagreements in recent months and work out a new 10-year defence aid package for Israel as well as demonstrate that the ties between the two traditional allies remain strong.

Biden's visit comes with Obama having acknowledged there will be no comprehensive agreement between Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office in January 2017.

Expecting 'nothing'

Talks are expected to include discussions on the defence aid package, currently worth about $3.1bn annually in addition to spending on projects such as missile defence.

Biden and Netanyahu also plan to talk about the fight against the Islamic State group.

But while Obama has resigned himself to not achieving any major breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been suggestions he may seek to somehow kick-start peace efforts at a complete standstill for two years.

That has included speculation the United States could break with traditional practice and support a UN resolution related to resolving the conflict, which Israel strongly opposes.

The United States has traditionally vetoed resolutions at the UN Security Council opposed by Israel.

Biden's visit is part of a tour of the Middle East.

On Monday he was in the United Arab Emirates, where he said Washington was going to have to "squeeze the heart of" ISIS in Syria and Iraq to wipe it out.

However, he also ruled out a military solution to end Syria's conflict and called for a political transition.

His comments came as President Bashar Assad's regime and its opponents are to resume UN-sponsored peace talks in the coming days in Geneva while a fragile ceasefire holds in Syria.

After his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Biden will travel to Jordan.

Senior Palestinian official Ahmed Majdalani said he was expecting "nothing" from Biden's visit.

"Mr Biden is only coming to the region in the context of his plans regarding the fight against terrorism in Syria, not for us," he told AFP.

Read more on:    us  |  palestine  |  israel

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