Attacks by Palestinians surge during visit of US Vice-President Joe Biden to Israel

United-States Vice-President Joe Biden gestures after disembarking from a plane upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel on March 8, 2016.
United-States Vice-President Joe Biden gestures after disembarking from a plane upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel on March 8, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Israeli special police secures the area around a shooting attack at Salah al-Din Street in East Jerusalem on March 8, 2016.
Israeli special police secures the area around a shooting attack at Salah al-Din Street in East Jerusalem on March 8, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Two Palestinian assailants opened fire at cars in Jerusalem, wounding one man before police shot them dead on Wednesday (March 9), the force said, as violence surged during a visit by United States Vice-President Joe Biden.

Soon after in the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to stab them, the military said.

The attacks came a day after an American tourist was killed in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian who went on a stabbing spree on the beachfront while Mr Biden met former Israeli President Shimon Peres blocks away.

Mr Biden said on Wednesday that his wife Jill and their grandchildren were dining on a Tel Aviv beach when a Palestinian killed an American tourist with a knife and wounded 11 other people on the seafront "not very far" away.

"I don't know exactly whether it was a hundred metres or a thousand metres," Mr Biden, on a visit to Israel, told reporters about Tuesday's assault.

"It brings home that it can happen, it can happen anywhere, at any time," he said, after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

On Twitter, Mr Biden called it a "tragic attack... taking the life of an American" and said "there is no justification for such acts of terror".

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian authorities.

Since October, Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and two US citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 179 Palestinians, 121 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

After several days in which the violence largely subsided, a series of attacks erupted after Mr Biden arrived in Israel on Tuesday.

Israel's national police chief said he saw no direct connection between Mr Biden's trip and the surge in attacks.

Mr Biden held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday and was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank later in the day.

"Let me say in no uncertain terms, the United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts," Mr Biden said, with Mr Netanyahu at his side, in remarks that appeared critical of Palestinian leaders.

US officials said Mr Biden would discuss with Mr Netanyahu a new 10-year military aid package to Israel currently under negotiation, as well as the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

They warned against any expectations of a breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stalled since 2014, in Mr Biden's meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas.

The incident in Jerusalem on Wednesday began when gunfire ran out near a commuter bus, though no one was hurt and the vehicle was not hit, a police spokesman said.

Several minutes later, two Palestinians in a car, believed by the police to have tried to attack the bus, opened fire near the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, the scene of multiple attacks over the past five months.

One man, who was not immediately identified, was critically wounded by the Palestinian gunfire and police shot and killed the two assailants, the spokesman said.

The US State Department identified the American killed on Tuesday as Mr Taylor Force, a 28-year-old graduate student at Vanderbilt University's Owen School of Management who was on a trip to Israel organised by the school.

The past five months of bloodshed have been fuelled by various factors, including a dispute over Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to secure the Palestinians an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.