Israeli police have closed off access to the Old City of Jerusalem for Palestinian men who are not residents of the area, after two attacks in less than 12 hours that saw the killing of two Israelis.
On Saturday night, a Palestinian killed two Israeli men and wounded a woman and a toddler in a knife and gun attack in the Old City. Police shot dead the attacker.
|Access to Jerusalem’s Old City limited to:|
In a separate incident early on Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a passer-by in West Jerusalem before being shot dead by police while fleeing.
Israeli TV showed footage of the alleged assailant walking along the city’s light rail tracks as bystanders screamed, “Shoot him!” In the video, a police car arrives on the scene, multiple gunshots are heard, and the attacker is then seen lying on the ground.
Relatives of the teen behind Sunday’s attack identified him as Fadi Alloun, 19, from traditionally Arab east Jerusalem. On Saturday, he wrote on his Facebook page: “Either martyrdom or victory”, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The attacks came with Israeli security forces already on alert after recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the surrounding Old City, as well as the murder in the occupied West Bank of a Jewish settler couple in front of their young children.
The restrictions on the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem only allow access to Israelis, tourists, residents of the area, business owners and students, police said.
Worship at the sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will be restricted to Old City residents and Palestinian Israelis, and limited to men aged 50 and above.
There will be no age restrictions on women. They will be allowed to enter through one specific gate.
Israeli police said the restrictions would last for two days.
West Bank clashes
The unrest has spread to the West Bank, where at least 18 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli troops Sunday during an Israeli arrest raid.
Israeli troops shot and wounded at least 26 Palestinians in an arrest raid in the Jenin refugee camp on Sundat, a Palestinian hospital director said. The refugee camp was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the second Palestinian intifada.
Palestinian witnesses said the Hamas member fled the scene, but two other men were arrested.
Israeli forces on a raid to arrest “wanted men involved in terrorist activities” were confronted by a crowd of Palestinians that threw explosives at them, the army said.
Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), told Al Jazeera that the latest Palestinian violence against Israelis was a reaction to “Israel’s systematic cycle of violence, its occupation and building of settlements”.
“The Israeli actions are an indication that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is trying to avoid his obligations to end this conflict and is trying to legitimise the illegal building of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Erekat said.
|Saeb Erekat accused Netanyahu of exploiting the current volatile situation “to derail the two-state solution” [Reuters]|
“Netanyahu is obviously trying to copy the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2002 military operation ‘Defensive Shield’, which was the biggest Israeli offensive against the West Bank since the 1967 war.”
“Netanyahu is trying to have his own ‘Defensive Shield’ by sealing off Jerusalem and closing off the entire West Bank, while the world is looking elsewhere in the region.”
Ahmad Ruwaidy, Jerusalem affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, echoed Erekat’s comments, saying the latest round of violence was a “natural reaction to Israeli policies”.
“The failure of the Israeli government to arrest the perpetrators or even mount a credible investigation into the killing and burning of the Dawabsheh family by Israeli settlers and the constant attacks on Palestinian civilians in Jerusalem and in the West Bank did, in fact, create the powder keg environment that we see today.”
David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli government had no further comment and referred to Netanyahu’s statement, made on Saturday, in which the prime minister blamed the Palestinian Authority for “wild incitement that leads to acts of terrorism and murder”.
Netanyahu’s statement added that he will speak to Israeli military and security chiefs “about the steps we will take not only to apprehend the murderers but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens”.
Israeli soldiers evacuated the al-Aqsa Mosque compound after arresting at least 40 worshippers following the first attack on Saturday.
Violence has risen in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.
Palestinians have said they fear that increasing visits by Jewish groups to the compound, revered by Jews as the site of Biblical temples, are eroding Muslim religious control there.
Israel has pledged to maintain Muslim prayer rights at al-Aqsa, but, citing security concerns, has frequently banned young Muslim men from entering the area.
Israel captured the Old City and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, and later annexed the areas. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, for a future state.
But Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, a policy deemed illegal by the UN.
About 300,000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem, making up about a third of the city’s population. They live in the predominantly Arab eastern district and have residency status in the city, but do not hold Israeli citizenship.
The last round of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis collapsed in 2014.