Death toll climbs as Palestinian unrest spirals

Mike Smith, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 11 2015 10:28 AM | Updated as of Oct 11 2015 06:28 PM

Hamas militants attend the funeral of Palestinian Jihad Al-Obeed, who was shot dead by Israeli troops on Friday, in Deirl al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip October 10, 2015. Israeli soldiers shot dead seven Palestinians on Friday in protests near the Gaza border. Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters.

JERUSALEM -- Violence between Israelis and Palestinians threatened to spiral out of control Saturday with two more Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip, two stabbings outside Jerusalem's Old City and more West Bank clashes.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Mahmud Abbas have sought to avoid an escalation, frustrated Palestinian youths have defied efforts to restore calm and a wave of stabbings has spread fear in Israel.

Both leaders said they had spoken with US Secretary of State John Kerry, each putting the blame on the other.

Netanyahu said he told Kerry he expected the Palestinian Authority to stop its "wild and mendacious incitement, which is causing the current wave of terrorism".

And Abbas said he reiterated the need for Israeli authorities to stop giving cover to "settler provocations, carried out under the army's protection".

Kerry had shared his "deep concern" over the violence in separate conversations with the two, his office said in a statement, and "stressed the importance of upholding the status quo in word and deed at the al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and of preventing inflammatory rhetoric and actions that will increase tensions."

A rocket fired by Gaza militants late Saturday was intercepted above southern Israel, the army said.

Israel was swift to retaliate, its fighter jets bombing an empty training base of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, in the early hours of Sunday, Palestinian security sources in Gaza said.

Nobody was wounded in the strike, which damaged the northern Gaza facility.

The Israeli army said it had targeted "two Hamas weapon manufacturing facilities," with spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner reiterating that the army "holds Hamas responsible for any act of aggression from the Gaza Strip."

Early Saturday another rocket had hit southern Israel without causing casualties, shortly after clashes along the border saw Israeli forces kill seven Palestinians, with later confrontations killing two more.

- Rioting and funeral clashes -

Rioting has shaken annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, with Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli security forces, who have responded with live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

In Hebron, a Palestinian wounded in clashes with Israeli forces on Thursday died on Saturday night.

Medical sources identified him as Ibrahim Awad, 28, from Beit Umar, a village north of the southern West Bank city.

A 22-year-old Palestinian whom Israeli police said they shot late Friday after he opened fire at them in east Jerusalem's Shuafat refugee camp also died on Saturday.

Clashes erupted after his funeral, and one Palestinian who tried to throw a firebomb at security forces was shot in the leg, police said.

Gaza had been mainly calm amid the week's unrest elsewhere, but clashes on Friday and Saturday exacerbated fears that a wider Palestinian uprising, or intifada, could erupt.

Clashes and infiltration attempts east of the southern city of Khan Yunis Saturday saw two young teenagers were killed and 10 people wounded by Israeli fire.

In central Gaza, and army statement said, dozens of suspects breached the fence with Israel.

The clashes came as Hamas's chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, called the overall violence an intifada and urged further unrest.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, remains deeply divided from Abbas's West Bank-based Fatah.

- Two more stabbings -

Meanwhile, there were more stabbing attacks, which have spread fear among Israelis.

On Saturday morning, a Palestinian teenager stabbed and wounded two ultra-Orthodox Jews, aged 62 and 65, outside the Old City's Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, police and medics said.

Police said they shot and killed 16-year-old Ishak Badran, of Kafr Aqeb in east Jerusalem.

Hours later in the same area, a 19-year-old also from Kafr Aqeb stabbed two police officers before himself being shot dead.

The stabbing victims in the second attack were in a "moderate" condition, medics said, with a third seriously wounded after being shot by another officer targeting the assailant.

Fourteen stabbing attacks have targeted Jews since October 3, when a Palestinian murdered two Israelis in the Old City, sparking a security crackdown.

One revenge stabbing has occurred, with a 17-year-old Jew in the southern Israeli city of Dimona wounding two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis on Friday.

Netanyahu quickly condemned that attack, a sign of concerns that it could trigger further violence.

Abbas has spoken out against violence and in favour of "peaceful, popular resistance", but many Palestinian youths are frustrated with his leadership.

Israeli police have struggled to prevent demonstrations among the country's Arab population from deteriorating into violence.

Dozens of Arabs were arrested for throwing stones and firebombs at police and traffic, in a number of demonstrations throughout northern and central Israel.

Netanyahu announced Saturday he had ordered the emergency call-up of three reserve border police companies to reinforce officers in east Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

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