New unrest hits Israel, West Bank despite calls for calm

AFP , Wednesday 7 Oct 2015

West Bank
Undercover Israeli police officers and Israeli soldiers detain a wounded Palestinian demonstrator, being pulled up, during clashes near Ramallah, West Bank, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. (Photo:AP)

New violence rocked the occupied West Bank and Israel on Wednesday, including three stabbings and an Arab shot dead by police, as Israeli and Palestinian leaders tried to ease tensions.

In the occupied West Bank, men thought to be undercover Israeli police opened fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in a group they had infiltrated, wounding three of them.

Four masked men suddenly drew pistols and began firing before soldiers rushed to the scene and helped haul away the wounded Palestinians.

One of three shot was seriously wounded in the back of the head.

The Palestinians regularly say that Israel of placing Arabic-speaking infiltrators among demonstrators.

Separately, in Kiryat Gat in central Israel, police shot dead an Arab man after he allegedly wounded a soldier with a knife and took his weapon, authorities said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed a visit to Germany set for Thursday to tackle the violence that has raged for three weeks despite appeals for calm.

Security officials from the two sides had met Tuesday evening after Abbas said he did not want an escalation in violence.

Israel lifted age restrictions from Wednesday on Muslims praying at east Jerusalem's sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque  in an apparent bid, swiftly welcomed by Washington, to ease tensions.

President Reuven Rivlin warned against religious incitement at the compound, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, saying Israel and the Palestinians were "sitting on a volcano".

Not far from the mosque, police said an 18-year-old Palestinian woman stabbed a 35-year-old Jewish man in the back and lightly wounded him.

The man, who was armed, managed to draw his gun, shooting and seriously wounding her, police said.

Later Wednesday, a Jewish man was attacked with a knife outside a shopping centre in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, police said, adding that the attacker had been overpowered.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank shot and seriously wounded an 18-year-old Palestinian near Bethlehem, the Red Crescent and witnesses said.

In the same area, a group of Palestinians had sought to seize a Jewish woman from her car and possibly kidnap her, Israeli military spokesman Arye Shalicar said.

Settlers fired in the air and the woman was able to escape, Shalicar said.

In moves to calm the situation, Israeli and Palestinian security officials reportedly met for talks at an undisclosed location in the West Bank on Tuesday evening.

Those talks followed a call for restraint from Abbas, who had declared in a speech to the UN General Assembly last week that he was no longer bound by accords with Israel.

Netanyahu has spoken of "no limits" for the security forces in responding to the unrest, and the military on Tuesday demolished the homes of two Palestinians who carried out attacks last year.

The spike in violence has brought international calls for calm, with concerns the unrest could spin out of control and escalate into a new intifada like those of 1987-93 and the early 2000s.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticised the home demolitions and urged Israel to fully investigate deadly clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

He said a "prompt and transparent" probe into the army's killing in Bethlehem of 13-year-old Abdel Rahman Abdullah during unrest on Monday would determine "whether the use of force had been proportional".

After Abdullah's funeral on Tuesday, about 100 masked youths stoned Israeli occupation soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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