World

Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed intensifies amid calls for peace

Oct. 2, 2015: An Israeli border policeman exchanges blows with a Palestinian man during a confrontation after Friday prayers outside the Old City in Jerusalem.

Oct. 2, 2015: An Israeli border policeman exchanges blows with a Palestinian man during a confrontation after Friday prayers outside the Old City in Jerusalem.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday there was no quick fix for the latest wave of Palestinian lone-wolf attacks the Jewish state has faced in recent days and that strong steps would be taken against those inciting to violence.

At least seven people were hurt in a string of stabbings Thursday in Israel and the West Bank, including one targeting a soldier, authorities say.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the soldier was moderately wounded in an attack in the city of Afula. Rosenfeld said the assailant was apprehended at the scene and was being questioned. He said the attacker was an Arab, without providing more details.

Elsewhere in Israel, police said a soldier shot and killed an Arab attacker Thursday after he stabbed four people with a screwdriver in Tel Aviv. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the injuries were not serious.

Also Thursday, police said a Palestinian attacker who stabbed one person in the stomach in Kiryat Arba escaped. Earlier in the day, a Palestinian teenager stabbed a Jewish seminary student in the neck in Jerusalem. Samri said police apprehended the assailant, and that the 25-year-old Israeli was seriously wounded. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was no quick fix to the wave of lone-wolf attacks, but strong steps would be taken against those inciting the violence, Reuters reported.

"We are in the midst of a wave of terror," he told reporters Thursday, adding that "with methodical determination we will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it."

Netanyahu has barred all Cabinet ministers and lawmakers from visiting a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City in an effort to calm the tensions. 

He ordered the ban on the holy site, which is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, because he was concerned that any high-profile visits could spark further violence, according to an Israeli official.

Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, also issued a statement urging residents to carry licensed firearms for added protection, according to Israelnationalnews.com.

"The mayor encourages licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to increase security," the statement read. "He himself serves as a personal example of this." 

The unrest began about three weeks ago at the mosque, where Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves inside and hurled stones, firebombs and fireworks at Israeli police. Tension later spread to Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and to the West Bank.

The Jerusalem hilltop compound is revered by Muslims as the spot where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and by Jews as the site of the two Jewish biblical Temples.

Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand Jewish presence at the site, a claim Israel fervently denies. According to a longstanding arrangement by Islamic authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the site during certain hours but not pray there.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a meeting Thursday that Palestinians will not be "dragged" into more violence with Israel.

He said he is committed to "peaceful popular resistance,” but reiterated his support for “those who are protecting Al-Aqsa mosque."

The U.N. human rights chief is also calling for calm in the West Bank, warning that "more bloodshed will only lead to more hatred on both sides."

Zeid Raad al-Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva that he is "deeply concerned at the increasing number of reported attacks" by both Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

At least 134 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition and many more hurt by rubber bullets or tear gas, Zeid says, and "the high number of casualties, in particular those resulting from the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces, raise concerns of excessive use of force."

Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from his own governing coalition to address the violence with a tough crackdown and increased settlement activity.

But too tough a response could draw scrutiny from the U.S. government and lead to another full-fledged uprising with a higher number of casualties on both sides.

On Wednesday, stabbings occurred outside a crowded mall in central Israel, in a southern Israeli town and in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.