Hebron (Palestinian Territories): Three Palestinians were shot dead trying to stab Israelis in east Jerusalem and the West Bank today, as violence that has fuelled international concerns of a full-scale uprising showed no let-up. The deadly unrest that has raged for more than two weeks prompted a “very concerned” US President Barack Obama to call for calm as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting yesterday.
Including alleged assailants, 40 Palestinians have been killed since the violence erupted on October 1. Seven Israelis have lost their lives. The mounting death toll has prompted fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, like those of 1987-93 and 2000-2005, when thousands were killed in near-daily violence. Two of the attacks today happened in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron where some 500 Jewish settlers live in a heavily guarded enclave in the city centre surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians.
The third happened at a checkpoint in a Jewish settlement neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. In the first attack in Hebron, a Palestinian tried to stab a settler before being shot dead by his victim, the army said. Palestinian security sources identified the assailant as 18-year-old Fadel al-Kawatsmi. The army said the settler was not hurt.
In the second attack, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab a female Israeli soldier guarding the Jewish enclave before being shot dead by her victim, Israeli police said. The soldier suffered minor injuries to her hand, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. Palestinian media said her assailant was aged 16.
In east Jerusalem, a Palestinian tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint in East Talpiot but was shot dead by other soldiers. Police said the assailant was a 16-year-old from nearby Jabel Mukaber, the same neighbourhood that was home to three Palestinians who carried out gun, knife and car-ramming attacks earlier this week.
Israeli security forces have deployed massively in Jerusalem to try to halt the attacks and on Wednesday began setting up checkpoints in parts of east Jerusalem, including Jabel Mukaber. But it has failed to stop the violence. The United States, which tried but failed last year to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, urged leaders on both sides to help rein in the unrest.
“We are very concerned about the outbreak of violence,” Obama said in Washington. “It’s important for both (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu… and (Palestinian) president (Mahmud) Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding,” he said.