JERUSALEM — A Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis in Jerusalem Saturday 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 center when they were stabbed by a 16-year-old Arab. Police forces 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 lightly wounded and evacuated to the hospital.
The wave of attacks started in Jerusalem weeks ago over what Israel says are unfounded Palestinian rumors 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 tires 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 neighborhood 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, complicating security efforts to predict or prevent the attacks.
The violence, including the first apparent revenge attack by an Israeli Friday and increasing protests by Israel's own Arab minority, has raised fears of the unrest spiraling 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 underway.
Leaders on both sides have called for calm. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire from hard-liners within his own governing coalition, as well as opposition lawmakers, for not putting an end to the surging violence. In a measure meant to ease tensions, Netanyahu has banned Cabinet ministers and lawmakers from visiting the sensitive Jerusalem holy site, fearing any high-profile spectacle could further enflame tensions.
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, a claim Israel adamantly denies. Under a longstanding arrangement administered by Islamic authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the site during certain hours but may not pray there.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his people had no interest in further violence and was committed to "peaceful popular resistance." Still, he voiced support for the protesters who have clashed with Israeli police at Al-Aqsa and hurled stones, firebombs and fireworks at them.