Four dead after latest bout of knife attacks in West Bank

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Three Palestinians and one Israeli died Sunday after a new series of three stabbing attacks and attempts, allegedly by Palestinians targeting Israelis.

The three consecutive attacks were the latest in a series of violent incidents that has plagued Israel, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for weeks. The latest outburst indicates there is little chance of it letting up ahead of an upcoming visit by America’s top diplomat.

In the first incident, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl allegedly tried to stab Israelis at a northern West Bank junction, but was run over by a settler who noticed her knife.

Soldiers and a bystander then opened fire when she tried to get up, knife still in hand, killing her, witnesses and a military statement said.

Less than an hour later, a Palestinian driving a taxi allegedly tried to run over Israelis at a West Bank junction east of Jerusalem, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The driver got out of the car with a knife and tried to stab bystanders, but was shot and killed by an armed civilian bystander, Rosenfeld said.

Still later Sunday, an as-yet-unidentified Palestinian stabbed an Israeli woman in her early 20s at yet another West Bank junction, south of Jerusalem, he said.

The stabber was shot dead by a passing soldier and the woman taken to hospital in serious condition, where she died of her wounds, he said.

That last attack occurred at a hitchhiking and bus stop outside the Gush Etzion settlement block, where many recent attacks have taken place.

On Saturday evening, a Palestinian stabbed and injured four Israelis in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat. He escaped, prompting a five-hour hunt during which residents were told to stay indoors.

The four Israelis remain in hospital, all in moderate condition. A Bedouin Israeli from the southern Negev desert was also lightly injured when attacked by a mob in the Israeli town, who mistook him for the attacker. He was protected by a civilian bystander, who told reporters he realized the man was not the stabber.

Since early October, Palestinians have staged 90 knife attacks, vehicle rammings and shootings against Israelis, the Israeli Foreign Ministry says.

Some 94 Palestinians have been killed since the outbreak of violence in early October. Israel says the vast majority of them were attackers who were shot dead while or after carrying out knife attacks.

Sixteen Israelis, a US tourist and an Eritrean have been killed in the attacks.

The outburst was triggered by rumours that Israel plans to change prayer arrangements at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli government denies it has such plans, but some radical coalition members, although not backed by official government policy, have poured oil on the fire by saying that Israelis should be allowed to pray on the outdoor platform that houses al-Aqsa Mosque.

The platform, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is sacred to both religions, as it houses al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock shrine, but also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.

Frustration by a new Palestinian generation at the failure to achieve statehood through negotiations – along with anger at ongoing Israeli settlement expansion – are seen as an underlying cause of the violence.

Israel also blames inflammatory rhetoric by radical leaders, who call on young observant Muslims to “defend” al-Aqsa by stabbing Jews. It also accuses the Palestinians of nurturing a culture of “glorification of martyrs” in which young stabbers are hailed as “heroes” willing to sacrifice their lives for the Palestinian cause.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to fly to Abu Dhabi on Sunday, before moving on for talks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, the US State Department announced Saturday.

The talks will be focused on “stopping the violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank,” according to the State Department, as well as on Syria and Islamic State.

The talks with Israelis and Palestinians are expected Tuesday, Israeli media reported. US embassy spokesman Geoffry Anisman was not immediately available for confirmation.

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