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JERUSALEM – Israeli forces shot a knife-wielding Palestinian dead Saturday after he ran toward a crossing between Israel and the West Bank and tried to stab security personnel at the site, the Israeli military said.
The incident is the first time an official West Bank crossing was targeted in the latest round of violence that began in mid-September. In the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, while 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 28 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes.
The violence initially erupted at a sensitive Jerusalem shrine revered by both Muslims and Jews, and has quickly spread to the rest of the city, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The daily attacks have caused panic and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a full-fledged uprising that will spiral out of control. On Friday, Palestinians threw a firebomb at an Israeli car in the West Bank, wounding a mother and her two children, one of whom, a 4-year-old girl, was badly burned.
Earlier, Israel lifted age and gender restrictions on worshippers at the major Jerusalem shrine, the epicenter of weeks of unrest, in an apparent bid to ease tensions, Muslim prayers there ended peacefully on Friday.
Tension around the shrine, a 37-acre hilltop platform, has been one of the triggers of the current violence.
Israel has repeatedly denied Palestinian allegations that it is trying to change long-standing understandings under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the shrine. Israel has accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of lying and inciting to violence. Palestinians say their fears have been fueled by a rise in visits to the shrine by Jewish activists demanding prayer rights, including senior members of Netanyahu's coalition government.
The hilltop compound is a frequent flashpoint and its fate is a core issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the holiest site in Judaism, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, once home to their biblical Temples.
Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and believe it is the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is the third holiest site in Islam and houses the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques.