Fresh knife attacks on Israelis as new Al-Aqsa measures announced

Palestinian protesters throw stones during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Si'eer, north of Hebron on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA

JERUSALEM (AFP) - A wave of stabbings left two Israelis wounded and an alleged Palestinian attacker dead Sunday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to install more security cameras at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a bid to defuse tensions.

A surge of violence in the decades-old conflict showed no sign of abating despite intense diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the crisis that many fear heralds a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

In the occupied West Bank a 17-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead while allegedly trying to knife Israeli border police and two Israelis were wounded in attempted stabbings, police said.

Another Palestinian was seriously wounded when he was shot several times by an Israeli settler while picking olives, according to Palestinian security sources.

Attacks and clashes have become near daily occurrences since simmering tensions over the status of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem boiled over in early October, leaving dozens dead.

The site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, making it a powder-keg in the long-running conflict, and Netanyahu on Saturday agreed on new measures to allay Palestinian fears that Israel plans to change rules governing the site.

Netanyahu vowed Jews would still be allowed to visit but not pray at the compound and agreed 24-hour surveillance cameras could be installed, adding these were in Israel's interest.

"Firstly, to refute the claim Israel is violating the status quo. Secondly, to show where the provocations are really coming from, and prevent them in advance," he said.

Jordanian King Abdullah II welcomed Netanyahu's pledge "on condition that it is implemented".

He said he was convinced this would "put an end to violence, calm tension and I hope it will contribute to reviving efforts to resolve the fundamental questions through negotiations".

The last attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict collapsed in April 2014 amid bitter recriminations on both sides.

Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said that currently cameras film the outside plaza of the compound, but not the interiors of its shrines.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that the cameras would be a "game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site".

But Palestinians were unmoved.

"There will not be calm without political prospects to definitively end the occupation," said Nabil Shaath, an official from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas' West Bank-based Fatah.

Palestinians want the status quo to revert to what it was in 2000, when Jordan controlled access and not Israel, which regularly imposes restrictions on Muslim visits.

Ties between Israel and Jordan have often been strained by events at the site in east Jerusalem, a majority Palestinian area seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never internationally recognised.

Under terms of a 1994 peace treaty, Jordan is recognised as custodian of the Al-Aqsa compound but Israel controls access.

Clashes erupted there in September as Muslims protested an increase in Jewish visitors during the Jewish religious holidays, some of whom secretly pray there.

Similar violence occurred there in 2014 over Jewish visits.

The clashes at Al-Aqsa spiralled into a wave of attacks against Israelis, leaving eight dead since the beginning of October. One Israeli Jew and one Eritrean have also been killed after being mistaken for attackers.

On Sunday a Palestinian woman allegedly attempted to knife border police in the West Bank city of Hebron and was shot dead, police said, taking the number of Palestinians killed in attempted attacks and clashes to 53. An Israeli Arab attacker has also been killed.

"A Palestinian woman acting suspiciously approached border police forces," police said. "She suddenly drew a knife and approached the forces yelling. The forces shot at her and neutralised her," Eyewitnesses said she was unarmed, however.

Two Israelis were stabbed and wounded in separate events in the West Bank.

After initially reporting that the Palestinian attackers of a motorist in the West Bank were disguised as ultra Orthodox Jewish men, the army later said reports of the disguise were unconfirmed.

And after an Israeli pedestrian was stabbed near the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, angry settlers blocked a major road junction in protest, Israeli media reported.

Meanwhile Palestinian police said a 20-year-old man was in serious condition after being "shot by a settler while harvesting olives in Sair," in the West Bank.

The attacks have been led by young Palestinians frustrated with life under Israeli occupation and a stalemate in peace efforts, and have not been claimed by any group.

But police said an assailant who shot dead an Israeli soldier and wounded about 10 others at a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba "was in contact with Hamas for an extended period" during which he planned the attack.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said more than 1,000 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, mostly youths, had been arrested since early October.

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