Deadly clashes at Gaza border as Israel tensions escalate
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Mounting tension between Israelis and Palestinians spread to the Gaza Strip Friday, with Israeli troops killing six in clashes on the border and Islamist movement Hamas calling for more unrest.
A spate of stabbings – three by Palestinians and one by an Israeli – also hit Israel and the West Bank as authorities struggled to control the spiralling violence.
The latest wave of attacks to hit Israel in recent weeks included the stabbing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy in Jerusalem by a Palestinian with a vegetable peeler, police said. The boy was injured in the assault before the attacker was arrested.
In another incident, a Palestinian woman was shot and wounded in the northern Israeli city of Afula when she attempted to stab a security guard at a bus station, police said.
And at the entrance to the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank, a Palestinian man attacked a police officer with a knife and tried to grab his gun. The officer, who was lightly injured, killed his attacker, police said.
Earlier, two members of Israel's Bedouin minority and two Palestinians were wounded in a stabbing attack by an Israeli man in Dimona, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, describing the attack as likely "nationalistically" motivated.
The men were evacuated to a hospital for treatment.
The stabber said after his arrest that he carried out the attacks in retaliation for the numerous Palestinian attacks on Israelis this week, Israeli media reported.
Dimona mayor Beni Bitton said the stabber is a "mentally ill man". He told Channel 10 TV that two of the victims worked for City Hall, and that passers-by quickly rushed to help the wounded Arabs and provided first aid.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "strongly condemned the harming of innocent Arabs". He said whoever deploys violence will be brought to justice.
Troops shoot Palestinians dead at Gaza border
Meanwhile, tensions further escalated as the wave of violence for the first time spilled over into Gaza, where six Palestinians were killed Friday by Israeli fire during clashes at the enclave’s border, hospital officials said.
Another 50 Palestinians were reported injured in the chaos, which erupted when demonstrators amassed at the border fence in northern Gaza began throwing stones at Israeli troops stationed on the other side.
The soldiers "fired at the main instigators in order to halt their advance and disperse the riot", an Israeli military spokeswoman said.
One of those killed was named as 20-year-old Ahmed al-Hirbawi.
The clashes came as Hamas's chief in Gaza called the spreading violence an intifada, or uprising, and urged further unrest.
In a sermon for weekly Muslim prayers at a mosque in Gaza City, Ismail Haniyeh said, "we are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada."
"It is the only path that will lead to liberation," he said. "Gaza will fulfil its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation."
Police on high alert
The unrest began about three weeks ago as Palestinians repeatedly barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque and hurled rocks and firebombs at police.
It was fuelled by Palestinian allegations that Israel plans to change the delicate arrangement at the Old City hilltop compound, holy to Jews and Muslims. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations and accused Palestinian leaders of incitement.
On Friday, Israeli security forces barred entry to the mosque to Palestinian men under age 45, police spokeswoman Samri said.
The age limit has been set intermittently in an attempt to ensure peace at the site, as it's mostly younger Palestinians involved in the violence, she said.
Israeli police have also set up metal detectors at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City as part of wider efforts to beef up security.
The attacks were initially confined to east Jerusalem, site of the sacred compound, and the West Bank – both territories captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians for their future state. But this past week the violence has spread to Tel Aviv, Afula and other Israeli cities.
The Red Crescent medical service says over 500 Palestinians have been injured in violent West Bank protests since last weekend, including about 100 from live fire.
While the attacks have shocked Israelis, officials there have downplayed the possibility of a new intifada – saying this is the kind of violent spike Israel has faced periodically in recent decades.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)