Deadly knife, gun and car attacks on Israelis shatter lull

Israeli soldiers stand next to a body at the scene of a Palestinian attack near a West Bank settlement.
Israeli soldiers stand next to a body at the scene of a Palestinian attack near a West Bank settlement.REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Five people died on Thursday as two separate Palestinians attacks targeting Israelis –a stabbing in Tel Aviv and a West Bank gun and car-ramming assault – shattered a lull in weeks-long violence.

The day was among the bloodiest for Israelis since the latest violence broke out on Oct 1.

The first attack saw a 36-year-old Palestinian storm into an office building in commercial capital Tel Aviv with a knife, killing two Israelis.

Police said he was stopped by officers and civilians, wounded and arrested.

The assailant attacked two people near a shop on the second floor of the building then ran downstairs and stabbed a third person before being stopped.

Israeli security forces said he was from the Hebron area in the occupied West Bank.

Those killed were men aged around 20 and 50, police said. The third victim suffered wounds in the upper body, hospital officials said.

One of the victims reportedly took refuge in a room inside the building that serves as a Jewish prayer area.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the attacker attempted to enter a synagogue inside the building.

“I heard cries and my Arab employee told me, ‘He’s stabbing,’” Israel Bachar, a 65-year-old who runs a nearby print shop, told AFP.

“I left my store and I saw a man on the ground being stabbed. I threw a piece of wood that was on the ground and the terrorist got up and ran after me. I hid in a nearby store.” Bachar said the victim, a longtime friend, later died in his arms.

The site of the attack, known as the Panorama building in southern Tel Aviv, hosts a variety of shops and offices.

Later in the day, at least one assailant opened fire from a car near a Jewish settlement south of Jerusalem before crashing into pedestrians.

Three people were killed in the incident, with at least one of them confirmed as Israeli and another a suspected attacker. A number of others were wounded.

The West Bank attacker was shot, the army said, but the assailant’s condition was not clear. There were conflicting reports on whether there was more than one attacker.

The attack occurred at a junction near the Gush Etzion settlement block, according to police.

Though details were still emerging, the army spoke of shots being fired, then of the attacker “intentionally” ramming his car into the pedestrians.

“Forces on sight fired towards the vehicle, identifying a hit,” said the army.

The fifth person who died Thursday was Aliyan Mahmud, a 22-year-old Palestinian wounded Nov 11 in the West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The last significant attack dates back to Friday, when an Israeli rabbi and his son were shot dead in an ambush as they drove near Hebron, the focus of much of the unrest.

The violence since the start of October has killed at least 84 people on the Palestinian side, including one Arab Israeli, and at least 15 Israelis.

Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others have been shot in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a Nov 9 meeting with US President Barack Obama, was said to have spoken of measures aimed at easing tensions amid the wave of Palestinian attacks.

Israel’s response to the violence has at times been controversial, such as the demolition of suspected attackers’ homes and allegations of excessive force in the killing of some alleged assailants.

On Tuesday, Israel banned the radical wing of the country’s main Islamist organisation, accusing it of having instigated violence at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site that preceded the wave of unrest.

Some questioned whether the ban would further stoke tensions and also harm legitimate political debate.