Middle East

Israel-Palestinian violence: Knife attackers shot dead

Israeli medics carry away the body of a Palestinian man who attempted to stab a soldier in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Armon Hanatsiv, adjacent to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber, on October 17, 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A Palestinian man who attempted to stab a soldier in the East Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Armon Hanatsiv was shot dead

Four Palestinians said to have attacked Israelis with knives in separate incidents have been shot dead and a fifth is in critical condition.

The incidents come amid spiralling violence this month with near-daily stabbings by Palestinians of Israelis.

Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in the stabbings and some gun attacks.

At least 40 Palestinians, including several of the attackers, have been killed in the growing unrest.

The latest stabbings were like many of those which have gone before apparently - not the work of known militant groups but random attacks by individuals acting alone without planning or organisation, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, where tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents are always high, an armed Israeli citizen shot dead a young Palestinian.

As is often the case, the circumstances are disputed, our correspondent says, with the Israeli civilian saying he was the victim of a stabbing attack and some Palestinians saying the dead man was unarmed.

Shortly afterwards a teenage Palestinian girl was shot dead by an Israeli border policewoman after trying to stab her. The Israeli officer said she took no pleasure in how the incident ended.

Some hours later another attempted stabbing of a soldier nearby ending with the shooting of the attacker.

In Jerusalem a Palestinian teenager was shot dead after he pulled a knife on border police who were examining his ID card.

And in the evening, an Israeli police officer killed a Palestinian who attempted to stab him at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank, police said.

There have also been sporadic clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Clashes were reported between Palestinians and Israeli troops across the West Bank on Friday

The upsurge in violence began last month when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in East Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over amid rumours Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex. Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday on the upsurge of violence.

Opening the meeting, UN Assistant Secretary-General Taye-Brook Zerihoun welcomed repeated assurances by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the status quo at the flashpoint holy compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, would not change.

But he said that "reckless statements made by Palestinian and Israeli extremist elements reinforced by some mainstream voices as well" had created a different impression.

A second factor behind the recent escalation in violence was the "heavy handed approach by the Israeli security services", he said.

The Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN, David Roet, defended Israel's approach, saying it faced an enemy "willing to die in order to kill" and was "responding proportionately".

US President Barack Obama said he was "very concerned about the outbreak of violence" and urged leaders on both sides to "try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding".

What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?

There has been a spate of stabbings of Israelis - several of them fatal - by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli. The attackers have struck in Jerusalem and central and northern Israel, and in the occupied West Bank. Israel has tightened security and its security forces have clashed with rioting Palestinians, leading to deaths on the Palestinian side. The violence has also spread to the border with Gaza.

What's behind the latest unrest?

After a period of relative quiet, violence between the two communities has spiralled since clashes erupted at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site in mid-September. It was fuelled by rumours among Palestinians that Israel was attempting to alter a long-standing religious arrangement governing the site. Israel repeatedly dismissed the rumours as incitement. Soon afterwards, two Israelis were shot dead by Palestinians in the West Bank and the stabbing attacks began. Both Israel and the Palestinian authorities have accused one another of doing nothing to protect each other's communities.

Is this a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising?

There have been two organised uprisings by Palestinians against Israeli occupation, in the 1980s and early 2000s. With peace talks moribund, some observers have questioned whether we are now seeing a third. The stabbing attacks seem to be opportunistic and although they have been praised by militant groups, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said Palestinians are not interested in a further escalation.

What is driving the latest violence?