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2 new knife attacks on Israelis; Palestinian assailants shot dead – Israeli MPs vote to make Arabic compulsory in schools

Israeli soldiers and settlers gather around the body of a Palestinian man who tried to stab a soldier at the Jewish settlement of Beit Hadassah
Israeli soldiers and settlers gather around the body of a Palestinian man who tried to stab a soldier at the Jewish settlement of Beit Hadassah

HEBRON, Palestinian Territories, Oct 29, (AFP): New knife attacks on Israelis in the West Bank left a soldier lightly injured Thursday, while two Palestinian assailants were shot dead by security forces, police and the army said.

In one incident a Palestinian stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli border guard near a shrine known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the volatile city of Hebron. “A Palestinian attacked and stabbed a soldier. Security forces responded and shot the attacker. The soldier sustained light injuries,” the army said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that the attacker, aged 24, had died. In the second incident a Palestinian allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier in Hebron, where several knife attacks have taken place in recent days. “Moments ago forces thwarted the second attempted stabbing today in Hebron. The Palestinian assailant attempted to stab an IDF soldier at a security post,” read an army statement.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attacker had been shot dead. Both incidents were followed by clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces, according to an AFP journalist on the scene. A wave of such knife attacks and shootings has left nine Israelis dead since early October. The death of the attackers takes the number of Palestinians killed in the recent unrest to 62.

Many of those killed have been shot in anti-Israeli protests. One Israeli Arab attacker has also been shot dead. While a spate of protests and attacks in Jerusalem has eased, tensions have flared in Hebron, where near-daily clashes pit youths against Israeli soldiers enforcing the decades-long occupation of the West Bank.

Protests in recent days have erupted over Israel’s policy of withholding the bodies of attackers, one of a series of measures to try to dissuade attacks on Jews, which began in early October as tensions over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in annexed east Jerusalem boiled over.

In another development, Israeli lawmakers voted Wednesday to make Arabic classes compulsory for students from the age of six, in a move backers hoped would help improve ties between Israeli Jews and Arabs.

The vote came amid increasing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, with a wave of deadly attacks on Israelis and clashes at protests in the occupied territories. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted unanimously in favour of the bill in first reading on Wednesday, with about half of all deputies in attendance.

It will now be studied in committee before returning to parliament for a second vote. Both Arabic and Hebrew are official languages of Israel, but while the vast majority of Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew, Arabic is not widely spoken among the Jewish population.

The bill was introduced by lawmaker Oren Hazan, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party, who said it was meant to reach out to Arab Israelis. “Language is a door to culture,” he told AFP. “I am looking reality in the eyes and I understand there is no possibility to walk to peace without understanding each other.”

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