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JERUSALEM – The Israeli military began deploying hundreds of troops in Israeli cities Wednesday to assist police forces in countering a wave of deadly Palestinian shooting and stabbing attacks that have created panic across the country.
The military's deployment of six companies marks the first implementation of measures by Israel's security cabinet to counter the attacks that have intensified dramatically in recent days. The cabinet met late into the night and announced steps early Wednesday that included allowing police to seal off points of friction or incitement. Many of the recent attackers have come from Arab areas of Jerusalem, prompting calls to seal off those neighborhoods to contain potential attackers.
The cabinet also decided to strip residency rights and demolish homes of some attackers and draft hundreds more security guards to secure public transport.
The measures came after a particularly bloody day in which a pair of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem killed three Israelis and another two attacks took place in the normally quiet Israeli city of Raanana. Three Palestinians, including two attackers, were also killed.
The government has thus far been unable to stop the violence, carried out mostly by young Palestinians unaffiliated with known militant groups and apparently acting on their own.
Israeli security officials, however, said Tuesday's seemingly coordinated attacks indicated that the outburst of violence was starting to take on a more organized fashion, from groups behind the planning and those carrying out attacks. The officials, speaking anonymously according to regulations, said Israel expects the current wave to last at least a few more weeks.
The attacks have caused panic in Israel and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a new round of heavy violence.
The violence erupted a month ago over the Jewish New Year, fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations and accused Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence and spreading lies.
Palestinians repeatedly barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, hurling stones and firebombs at police.
Violence was initially confined to east Jerusalem and the West Bank — territories Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians for a future state — but later spread to Israeli cities. Violent protests have also broken out along with Israel-Gaza border.
Eight Israelis have died in a string of stabbings, shootings and the stoning of a car, while 29 Palestinians — including 12 identified by Israel as attackers — have been killed.
In Tuesday's violence, a pair of Palestinian men boarded a bus and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus stop, then got out of his vehicle and began hacking bystanders with a long knife.
The near-simultaneous attacks, along with two stabbings in the central Israeli city of Raanana, marked the most serious outbreak of violence since the current round of tensions erupted.