Israel's Netanyahu cancels Germany trip amid ongoing violence
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Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned trip to Germany amid continued violence between Palestinians and Israelis on Wednesday, despite calls from both sides to ease tensions.
The Israeli prime minister, who was expected in Germany on Thursday to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, convened his security advisers to discuss the latest incidents.
In the occupied West Bank, undercover Israeli police opened fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in a group they had infiltrated near the Beit El settlement near Ramallah, wounding three of them.
Video footage of the clash showed the undercover soldiers, dressed as masked Palestinians, appearing to take part in the stone throwing before suddenly drawing their concealed weapons and turning on the Palestinians to carry out arrests.
One of those shot was seriously wounded in the back of the head.
The Palestinians regularly accuse Israel of placing Arabic-speaking infiltrators among demonstrators.
Separately, in Kiryat Gat in central Israel, police shot dead an Arab man after he allegedly wounded a soldier with a knife and took his weapon, authorities said.
This came a day after Israeli and Palestinian security officials met to discuss the worsening situation, and after the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas said he did not want an escalation in violence.
The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said 288 Palestinians were hurt in Wednesday’s clashes, including 10 by live fire.
‘Sitting on a volcano’
Israel lifted age restrictions from Wednesday on Muslims praying at east Jerusalem's sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in an apparent bid, swiftly welcomed by Washington, to ease tensions.
President Reuven Rivlin warned against religious incitement at the compound, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, saying Israel and the Palestinians were "sitting on a volcano".
Not far from the mosque, police said an 18-year-old Palestinian woman stabbed a 35-year-old Jewish man in the back and lightly wounded him.
The man, who was armed, managed to draw his gun, shooting and seriously wounding her, police said.
Later Wednesday, a Jewish man was attacked with a knife outside a shopping centre in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, police said, adding that the attacker had been overpowered.
Jewish settlers in the West Bank shot and seriously wounded an 18-year-old Palestinian near Bethlehem, the Red Crescent and witnesses said.
In the same area, a group of Palestinians had sought to seize a Jewish woman from her car and possibly kidnap her, Israeli military spokesman Arye Shalicar said.
Settlers fired in the air and the woman was able to escape, Shalicar said.
Moves to avoid escalation
In moves to calm the situation, Israeli and Palestinian security officials reportedly met for talks at an undisclosed location in the West Bank on Tuesday evening.
Those talks followed a call for restraint from Abbas, who had declared in a speech to the UN General Assembly last week that he was no longer bound by accords with Israel.
Netanyahu has spoken of "no limits" for the security forces in responding to the unrest, and the military on Tuesday demolished the homes of two Palestinians who carried out attacks last year.
The spike in violence has brought international calls for calm, with concerns the unrest could spin out of control and escalate into a new intifada like those of 1987-93 and the early 2000s.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticised the home demolitions and urged Israel to fully investigate deadly clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
He said a "prompt and transparent" probe into the army's killing in Bethlehem of 13-year-old Abdel Rahman Abdullah during unrest on Monday would determine "whether the use of force had been proportional".
After Abdullah's funeral on Tuesday, about 100 masked youths stoned soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)