Israeli troops today killed five Palestinians and wounded at least 30 others by firing on stone-throwing protesters in Gaza, according to hospital officials, as violence continues to spread across the region.
The Gaza protesters were hurling rocks during a rally in support of protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank, after tensions have surged during the last 10 days — when four Israelis and at least eight Palestinians have died.
The Israeli army said around 200 Palestinians reached to within less than 330 feet from the border fence in northeast Gaza, throwing stones and rolling burning tires toward Israeli troops stationed on the other side.
The soldiers then "fired at the main instigators in order to halt their advance and disperse the riot," a military spokeswoman said, adding that she knew of five Palestinians who were shot.
Witnesses said they had been fired at by Israeli snipers in guardposts along the border fence, about 1,300 feet away from where the Palestinians were protesting.
Earlier on Friday, a Jewish assailant stabbed four Arab men in the southern Israeli city of Dimona, an attack denounced by Netanyahu and described by one of his ministers as "terrorism."
In the northern city of Afula, an Israeli-Arab woman was shot several times and wounded by Israeli police as she held up a knife. Police said she had tried to stab a bus station guard, although video footage of the incident did not show that.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a 14-year-old Jewish boy, and near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman before being shot dead.
There was also violence in the West Bank city of Ramallah, with video footage showing an Israeli army jeep running over a stone-throwing Palestinian, who was wounded.
Palestinian anger is largely focused on events at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City and fears that Israel is trying to change the status quo at the holy site, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Hundreds of Palestinians attended the funeral of Mohnad Halabi in Ramallah on October 9. Halabi was killed on October 3 after carrying out a knife attack in Jerusalem's Old City.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have called for calm and Palestinian police are continuing to coordinate with Israeli security forces to try to restore order, but there are few signs of the tension and violence dying down.
Netanyahu has accused Abbas, his Fatah party, and the Islamist group Hamas of inciting the violence in East Jerusalem in recent weeks. He reiterated that message at a news conference on Thursday, adding that there was no "quick fix." "We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism with knives, firebombs, rocks and even live fire," he said.
"While these acts are mostly unorganized, they are all the result of wild and mendacious incitement by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and… the Islamic Movement in Israel."
Meanwhile, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has called on Palestinians to step up their fight against Israel, describing the recent surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank as the beginning of a new uprising, or intifada.
"This is Friday, this is the day of rage… It is a day that will represent the start of a new intifada in all of the land of Palestine," Haniyeh told followers after Friday prayers. "We give souls and blood for Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Aqsa is part of the religion," he said, describing Palestinians who have carried out stabbings against Israelis as "heroes."
Palestinian protests were planned in Jerusalem and West Bank cities after Muslim prayers on Friday and Israel has deployed thousands more police and soldiers. More than 3,500 Israeli police were deployed in and around Jerusalem and the Old City, a spokesman said, in addition to undercover anti-riot forces.
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