Four Palestinians were killed on Thursday, among them three who Israel said were carrying out attacks on soldiers in the West Bank, as tourists and Christian faithful were gathering in Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations.
Bethlehem has been a focal point for clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters during the three month-long wave of violence that has gripped the region. While the annual festivities in the city's Manger Square were set to go on, other celebrations in the city were cancelled or toned down because of the violence.
"We're in Bethlehem celebrating Christmas, celebrating the birthday of our lord Jesus Christ. This is the birthplace of the king of peace so what we want is peace," said Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Tourism Minister.
Israeli authorities said that three Palestinians were killed after they carried out or attempted to carry out attacks against Israelis across the West Bank. A fourth Palestinian was killed in clashes with Israeli troops, according to a Palestinian hospital official.
In the first incident, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attacker approached the entrance to an industrial zone in the Ariel settlement and stabbed two security guards, wounding them moderately, before they shot and killed him. Two other Palestinians were killed in two other incidents, including an attack by a motorist on Israeli troops, with one soldier lightly wounded.
The fourth Palestinian, who died in clashes with the Israeli military in the Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank, was hit in the head by live fire, according to Ahmad Bitawi, the director of Ramallah hospital.
The Israeli military said it entered the camp to carry out an arrest when troops encountered a "violent mob" that opened fire at the Israeli forces and threw firebombs at them. The military said troops responded by firing at the gunmen.
Near-daily Palestinian attacks have killed 20 Israelis and an American student. Israeli fire has killed 124 Palestinians, 85 of them said by Israel to be attackers while the rest were killed in clashes with Israeli forces. On Wednesday, two Palestinian attackers were shot dead after they stabbed and killed an Israeli man. Another Israeli man died after he was apparently shot by Israeli police trying to subdue the attackers.
Israel says the unrelenting violence is fanned by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement. The Palestinians say it is rooted in frustrations stemming from nearly five decades of Israeli occupation.
Also Thursday, police said they were investigating the "many serious offenses" seen in a video of extremist Jews aired Wednesday on Israeli Channel 10 TV. The video purported to show a wedding attended by Jewish extremists last week, where revelers stabbed pictures of a Palestinian toddler killed in an arson attack earlier this year, danced with rifles belonging to the Israeli military and in one case, held a mock firebomb in the air. The report said the people were friends of the suspects in the arson on the Palestinian home in July.
Israeli leaders have expressed outrage at the video.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.