A PALESTINIAN teenager stabbed two Israelis in Jerusalem before being shot dead by police forces, the latest in a series of stabbing attacks against civilians and soldiers that have spread across Israel and the West Bank in the past week.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the two Israelis were walking from the Old City of Jerusalem toward the city centre yesterday when they were stabbed by a 16-year-old Arab.
Officers on site noticed the men bleeding from stab wounds in their upper body and then the knife-wielding Palestinian running in their direction and opened fire, he said, killing the attacker. The two victims were not badly wounded and taken to the hospital.
The wave of attacks started in Jerusalem weeks ago over what Israel says are unfounded Palestinian rumours that Israel was expanding its presence at a sensitive holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews. They have since spread to the rest on the country. On Friday, for the first time since the current violence began, clashes broke out along the Gaza border. Palestinians there burned tyres and threw rocks at Israeli troops on the frontier. Seven Palestinians were killed.
The violence continued overnight as a rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel. No one was wounded and no damage was caused. In Jerusalem, Rosenfeld said police forces in an Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhood came under attack and responded with gunfire, hitting a 25-year-old attacker. Health officials later confirmed the man had died of his wounds.
Recent days have seen a series of attacks by young Palestinians wielding household items like kitchen knives, screwdrivers and even a vegetable peeler. The youths had no known links to armed groups and have targeted Israeli soldiers and civilians at random.
The violence, including the first apparent revenge attack by an Israeli on Friday and increasing protests by Israel’s own Arab minority, has raised fears of the unrest spiralling further out of control. The unpredictability and brutality of the assaults, coupled with the young age of some of the attackers, have shocked Israelis and raised fears that a new Palestinian intifada – or uprising – could be under way.
Leaders on both sides have called for calm. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire from hardliners within his own governing coalition, as well as opposition politicians, for not putting an end to the surging violence. In a measure meant to ease tensions, Netanyahu has banned cabinet ministers and MPs from visiting the sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
The Jerusalem hilltop compound lies at the heart of recent tensions. It is home to the Al-Aqsa mosque and is revered by Muslims as the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and by Jews as the site of the two Jewish biblical Temples. Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand the Jewish presence at the site, which Israel denies.