Four Israelis stabbed ahead of Kerry visit

JERUSALEM 2015 (AFP) - Four Israelis were stabbed and wounded in the south on Saturday as violence continued to roil the West Bank ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit next week.

Police also raided and shut down a Palestinian radio station in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, and a Palestinian fireman was allegedly shot by Israeli forces.

In the southern city of Kiryat Gat, four Israeli Jews were stabbed by at least one attacker near the football stadium, police said.

“Four Israeli citizens were injured,” a police statement said, adding that the suspects had fled the scene.

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency medical service said one of the four was in a serious condition, two were moderate and another lightly hurt.

The incident bore the characteristics of a spate of attacks by Palestinians, predominantly stabbings, since the beginning of October, including in Kiryat Gat.

On Oct 7, a Palestinian stabbed a soldier and grabbed his gun in the same city, which is near Hebron, before being shot by security forces.

In the occupied West Bank, tensions were high Saturday as Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian protesters near the town of Dayr Samet, west of Hebron.

A gas grenade fired by Israeli forces caused a fire in a warehouse, and when Palestinian firemen arrived the soldiers fired at them, a fireman told AFP, adding that one was wounded in the leg with a rubber- coated bullet.

A military spokeswoman confirmed the clashes but said they were looking into the report about the fireman.

Earlier, a woman was arrested in Hebron allegedly in possession of a knife. Police said she appeared to be attempting to “carry out a stabbing operation against (Israeli) forces”.

Israeli officials have repeatedly accused Palestinian media of inciting such violence by spreading false information, and forces raided and shut down a radio station overnight.

Israel’s civil administration, a unit of the defence ministry, said Al-Khalil Radio had broadcast “lies about Palestinians being executed and abducted by security forces”.

In a recording provided to journalists that was allegedly played on the channel, a singer urges listeners to “lock and load your machinegun and move forward” and to show “no mercy”.

Ezz Haddad, head of programming at the station, denied the accusation and said the security forces “took the computers, communication equipment, everything” during the raid.

He confirmed that Al-Khalil had been given a six-month broadcasting ban, the second radio station in Hebron to be penalised this month.

The wave of violence since Oct 1 has left 86 Palestinians dead – many of them alleged assailants – as well as 15 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

Palestinians point to fears of changes to the status quo at the Dome of the Rock – Islam’s third most holy site but known to Jews as Temple Mount – as the spark for the violence.

Israel has repeated denied it is seeking to change the rules whereby Jews and Christians can visit but only Muslims can pray at the site.

Against the polarised backdrop, Kerry is due to visit Israel and the West Bank next week to push for the violence to end.

Peace talks proper between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since April 2014.

Kerry is due to arrive Tuesday to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.

During those meetings, Kerry is expected to discuss ways to ease the violence by improving conditions on the ground.

He will also use the opportunity to discuss issues including Syria and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.