JERUSALEM – A Palestinian woman brandishing a knife stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Nablus (search) on Tuesday before other soldiers shot and killed her, the army said.
The attack came as Israel (search) beefed up security throughout its towns and cities to prevent attacks during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which began Monday night. Israeli troops also barred Palestinians from entering Israel from the West Bank and Gaza during the holiday.
Also Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz (search) said the Hamas militant group was setting itself up as a shadow government to the Palestinian Authority and needed to be dismantled.
Mofaz demanded that the Palestinian Authority disqualify Hamas from running in parliamentary elections scheduled for January.
"We cannot under any circumstances, not us or any other country, support a move where a terror organization is a part of the Palestinian Authority," he told Israel Radio.
Israel has demanded Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismantle Palestinian militant groups. Abbas has refused, fearing a crackdown could spark a civil war.
Hamas gunmen and Palestinian police engaged in a series of gunbattles across Gaza City on Sunday that killed three people, including a police officer, and increased fears Gaza was devolving into chaos following Israel's withdrawal last month.
Abbas has tried to bring some order to Gaza by ordering a ban on carrying weapons in public, but Hamas has become increasingly brazen in its defiance of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas said Monday that the authority would not tolerate the chaos and would "use all means to prevent the public display of arms." However, Palestinian security officials say police are no match for the armed groups.
Mofaz described the Palestinian fighting as an isolated incident that did not signal a crackdown on militant groups.
"I unfortunately don't see the Palestinian Authority taking any serious steps to disarm the terror organizations," he said.
Mofaz accused Syria of encouraging Palestinian militant attacks against Israel. He predicted that the United States, angry over the infiltration of militants into Iraq through Syria and allegations that Syria was behind the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, could try to force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
In the attack Tuesday morning, a Palestinian woman wearing a long Islamic dress approached the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus and pulled a long knife out of her handbag, said Muad Abu Siadi, a Palestinian man who witnessed the attack.
She then charged a female soldier, knocked her to the ground and stabbed her, Abu Siadi said. A second soldier grabbed the knife and threw it to the side and the attacker ran away, he said.
When the soldiers, thinking she might be carrying a bomb, took cover behind concrete blocks, the attacker picked up the knife and charged at them again, Abu Siadi said. They shot her in the legs, he said.
The attacker, whom relatives identified as Haifa Hendia, later died at the scene. Relatives said Hendia, a mother of five who was about 30 years old, was mentally ill. No militant groups claimed responsibility for the attack.
The female soldier sustained moderate wounds to her face, the army said.
On Monday, Palestinian officials announced a major shake up in their foreign representations, replacing dozens of their representatives around the world, including in Washington, London and Paris. They also announced a mandatory retirement age of 60 for foreign representatives.
When former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was alive, he appointed cronies as foreign envoys. The unprecedented housecleaning was seen as an effort to fight corruption and professionalize the foreign service.