Middle East

Israeli soldier kills Jewish civilian in 'identity mishap'

Israeli medics remove body of shot Israeli, in Jerusalem (21/10/15) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The shooting happened at a time of heightened alert across Israel

An Israeli soldier has killed a Jewish Israeli civilian in Jerusalem after each confronted the other thinking they were an Arab attacker, reports say.

The man was shot after trying to grab the soldier's gun during a scuffle, local media say.

It comes at a time of heightened alert amid a spate of attacks on Israelis and wider Israeli-Palestinian violence.

On Thursday, two Palestinians were shot after stabbing and wounding an Israeli in central Israel, police say.

Police say the assailants first tried to board a bus carrying schoolchildren before stabbing a 25-year-old man at a bus stop in Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem.

One of the attackers died and the other is in a critical condition, Israeli medical sources say.

Israel's domestic security agency said one of the attackers belonged to the militant group Hamas, while the other had previously been jailed for carrying a knife at a site holy to Muslims and Jews in Hebron in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Israelis and Palestinians to "end all incitement, to end all violence", at the start of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin.

The discussions come ahead of talks scheduled this weekend between Mr Kerry and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan.

'Mistaken identity'

According to media reports, a Jewish Israeli man confronted two soldiers boarding a bus in central Jerusalem early on Thursday, thinking they were potential attackers.

Police said the soldiers suspected the man himself was a would-be attacker and asked to see his ID. The man refused and scuffle ensued, during which the man grabbed one of the soldiers' guns and was shot and killed by the second soldier.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Kerry and Netanyahu met amid a diplomatic effort to stop the violence

It is the latest case of apparent mistaken identity amid the current security alert which has seen innocent civilians wounded or killed.

Earlier this week, a 19-year-old Eritrean migrant died after being mistaken for a gunman and then shot and beaten by passers-by at the time of an attack at a bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

Last week, a Jewish Israeli stabbed and wounded another Jewish Israeli in an apparent revenge attack, in Haifa, northern Israel.

Eight Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in attacks by Palestinians and an Israeli Arab since the start of this month. More than 40 Palestinians, including several of the attackers, have also been killed in the spiralling violence.

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

What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?

There has been a spate of stabbings of Israelis and some shootings - several of them fatal - by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli. The attackers have struck in Jerusalem and across 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?