Israel: 3 Palestinians attempting to stab Israelis shot dead
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis shot dead three Palestinians they said had attacked them with knives on Saturday in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron, the latest in a month of violent confrontations.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said a 16-year-old Palestinian drew a knife on officers in Jerusalem when they stopped him to ask for identification after a bystander said he was behaving suspiciously. She said the officers shot and killed the teenager after he tried to stab them.
The incident took place near where two Palestinian men boarded a bus earlier in the week and began shooting and stabbing passengers, killing two.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Israel’s military said an Israeli pedestrian shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to stab him in the West Bank city of Hebron, a frequent flashpoint where a few hundred Jewish settlers live in close proximity to tens of thousands of Palestinians. The military said the Palestinian was shot dead before he could harm the man.
Later, police said a Palestinian woman stabbed a female officer at a border police base in Hebron before the officer shot her dead. The officer’s hand was lightly wounded.
Over the past month, eight Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. In that time, 39 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 18 labeled by Israel as attackers, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops.
Most of the attacks on Israelis have been carried out by Palestinians with no known ties to militant groups. The daily attacks have caused a sense of panic across Israel and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a new round of heavy violence.
The violence erupted a month ago over the Jewish New Year, fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine and a key national symbol for the Palestinians.
Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying it has no plans to change the status quo at the site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. The Palestinian fears have been fueled by a growing number of Jews visiting the compound in recent months, especially during holidays, with the encouragement of Jewish activists groups and senior government officials.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has at times tried to calm the situation by saying violence is not in the Palestinians’ interest and behind the scenes has ordered his security forces to reduce frictions.
But Israel accuses him of incitement, saying he has not condemned attacks on Israelis and falsely accused Israel of having “summarily executed” a Palestinian boy who stabbed an Israeli boy. The Palestinian teen is recovering in an Israeli hospital.
Israel has taken unprecedented steps in response to the attacks. It has deployed soldiers in Israeli cities and erected concrete barriers outside some Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, where most of the attackers came from. Ordinary citizens have also increasingly taken up arms to protect themselves.
On Saturday, the roadblocks on the outskirts of Arab neighborhoods caused massive traffic jams, with some frustrated motorists saying they had been waiting for several hours. On the edge of the Issawiyeh neighborhood, drivers honked their horns at a group of Israeli police and paramilitary border police who were taking their time checking each car and asking some of the younger Palestinians to lift up their shirts to show they were not armed.
At one point, tensions rose palpably and the officers, in riot gear, moved a few meters (feet) into the crowd. One of the officers threw a stun grenade into the line of waiting cars.
Palestinians said they felt the roadblocks were intended as collective punishment and would be ineffective in deterring attackers. Anyone with bad intentions would not pass through a checkpoint and instead try to reach Jewish neighborhoods through dirt roads, they said.
Taxi driver Emad Obeid, 30, said he and his passenger had been waiting for close to four hours, and the line had barely moved.
“People are very upset,” he said. “This will just cause new attacks.”
In one of the attacks Saturday, Uri Nuriel, 31, said he was riding his bike in Jerusalem when he noticed a Palestinian smiling oddly. “He was holding his bag suspiciously, I thought it was an explosive,” he said. He informed police officers stationed nearby, who then confronted the youth. Police said they shot him dead after he tried to stab them.
Many of the attackers have been Palestinian youth, and a local police commander at the scene of Saturday’s incident pleaded for their parents to restrain them.
“I call on the parents to show responsibility for their children and tell us, the police, about any unusual behavior,” said Haim Shmueli. “Inform us so that we can deal with these kids and won’t have to get to a place where we have to track them down here on the streets and neutralize them.”
On Friday, Palestinian assailants firebombed a West Bank site revered by Jews as the tomb of the biblical figure Joseph. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying extremists were trying to make the current conflict a religious one.
Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Jerusalem contributed to this report.