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Two More Stabbings in Israel as Street Violence Surges

Three Israelis have been killed in stabbings in Jerusalem since Thursday as tensions rise over access to the long-contested al Aqsa mosque complex, a site revered by Jews and Muslims, and in the West Bank.

by Reuters and VICE News
Oct 7 2015, 12:40pm

Security is tight in Jerusalem's Old City following a spate of attacks. Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA

A suspected Palestinian militant stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier, snatched his gun, and was then shot dead by special forces on Wednesday, police said, as a surge of violence prompted Israel's prime minister to cancel a visit to Germany.

Hours earlier a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli in Jerusalem's Old City and was then shot and wounded by the injured man.

The incidents were the third and fourth knife attacks in Israel in a week as tensions mount over access to a contested shrine in the holy city and in the West Bank.

Four Israelis have been killed in stabbings in Jerusalem and a drive-by shooting in the West Bank since Thursday, and two Palestinians, both teenagers, have been shot dead and scores injured in clashes with security services, triggering fears of an escalation.

In the latest attack, an Arab man stabbed a soldier on a bus in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat, grabbed his gun and ran into a residential building, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. He was shot dead by police special forces.

Kiryat Gat, and surroundings has been relatively peaceful in recent months, but are a short drive from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In Jerusalem, Samri said an 18-year-old Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man in the back in an alley near the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer plaza abutting the al Aqsa mosque complex. 

Lightly wounded, the man drew a gun and shot the woman, who was taken to hospital in serious condition, Samri said.

This video is described as showing the female attacker being taken from the scene.

The eighth century Al Aqsa mosque is one of the holiest sites in both Islam and Judaism, known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and has long been a flashpoint for conflict.

During the past year Palestinian rancor has grown due a rise in visits to the site by Israelis, including ultra-nationalist Jews. Palestinians fear an erosion of a decades-old arrangement guaranteeing exclusive Muslim prayer at the site.

Israel says it is keeping the status quo, but Palestinians say security forces have started sporadically restricting entry to Muslims during visits by Jews, with concern spreading that they are attempting to establish Muslim-free visiting hours.

Violence has flared across West Bank and in Jerusalem over the last week. On Saturday, a six-year-old Palestinian boy was shot in the stomach and injured near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. Israeli forces claimed the boy was playing with a gun when it misfired, but Palestinian reports said the boy was shot by an Israeli settler who then fled.

The Israeli police announced a two-day on ban on Palestinians entering Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday, and restricted Muslim visits to the mosque to men aged 50 and over, and women of any age.

Confrontations spread late on Tuesday to Jaffa, a predominantly Arab neighborhood of Tel Aviv, where three police officers were injured in stone-throwing and six protesters arrested.

Clashes broke out near Aida camp in northern Bethlehem on Tuesday as hundreds of mourners attending the funeral of 13-year-old Abdul-Rahman Obeidallah went head-to-head with Israeli soldiers.

Related: Masked Youths Clash With Israeli Soldiers Following Funeral of West Bank Teenager

Obeidallah was shot in the chest during clashes between protesters and Israeli soldiers on Monday, but eyewitnesses to the incident claim he was returning home from school and was not involved in the demonstration.

Hoping to head off the violence and potential knock-on attacks by ultra-nationalist Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has beefed up the military presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Though at diplomatic loggerheads with Netanyahu over peace talks that stalled in April 2014, the US-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has also said he seeks no escalation.

Netanyahu was due to visit Germany, Israel's most important European ally, on Thursday with members of his cabinet. But aides to Netanyahu said on Wednesday he had cancelled the trip because of the precarious security situation.

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