HEBRON, Oct 17, (AFP): Three Palestinians were shot dead while trying to stab Israelis in east Jerusalem and the West Bank Saturday, as violence that has fuelled international concerns of a full-scale uprising showed no let-up. The violence that has raged for more than two weeks prompted a “very concerned” US President Barack Obama to call for calm as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Friday. Including alleged assailants, 40 Palestinians have been killed since the violence erupted on October 1. Seven Israelis have lost their lives.
The mounting death toll has prompted fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, like those of 1987-1993 and 2000- 2005, when thousands were killed in near-daily violence. Two of Saturday’s attacks took place in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, where some 500 Jewish settlers live in a heavily guarded enclave in the city centre surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians. The third was at a checkpoint in a Jewish settlement neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
In the first Hebron incident, a Palestinian tried to stab a settler before his intended victim, who was unharmed, shot him dead, the army said. Palestinian security sources identified the assailant as 18-year-old Fadel al- Kawatsmi. Video circulated by Palestinian activists showed a young man wearing a kippa brandishing a pistol as shots rang out before Israeli soldiers moved in to pull him away from a body lying on the ground. In the second attack, a Palestinian girl attempted to stab a female Israeli soldier outside a border guard base before being shot dead by her would-be victim, Israeli police said. The soldier suffered minor injuries to her hand, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Palestinian media said her assailant was aged 16. Troops later opened fire at stonethrowing Palestinian youths in several sectors of Hebron, wounding 11 with rubber bullets and one with a live round, Palestinian medics said. In east Jerusalem, a Palestinian tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint in East Talpiot but was shot dead by other soldiers. Police said the assailant was a 16-yearold from nearby Jabel Mukaber, the same neighbourhood that was home to three Palestinians who carried out attacks earlier this week. Israeli security forces have deployed massively in Jerusalem to try to halt the attacks and, on Wednesday, began setting up checkpoints in parts of east Jerusalem, including Jabel Mukaber.
But that has failed to stop the violence. The United States, which tried but failed last year to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, urged leaders on both sides to help rein in the unrest. “We are very concerned about the outbreak of violence,” Obama said in Washington Friday. “It’s important for both (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu… and (Palestinian) President (Mahmud) Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding,” he said. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who could travel to the region soon, has spoken separately to Abbas and Netanyahu to ask them to restore calm. Abbas has been under pressure over recent comments that some have labelled incitement and has called for peaceful protests without explicitly condemning the violence.