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US tourist killed in Tel Aviv knife attack as Biden visits

Thomas Coex, AFP | US Vice President Joe Biden (pictured left) arrives for a meeting with former Israeli president Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv on March 8, 2016

An American tourist was killed and nine other people were wounded in a knife attack by a Palestinian suspect in Tel Aviv on Tuesday as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the city, police said.


The attacker was shot dead by police, Israeli authorities said, adding that he was thought to be from the town of Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.

“He arrived in Jaffa, it’s not clear how he arrived there, and he just started stabbing people on the promenade of the Jaffa port,” Orly Halpern, a correspondent with Global Radio News, told FRANCE 24.

A video shared online showed a man running down a road and lunging at someone through a car window.

The attack caused panic, with one witness telling Israeli television that he hit the assailant with his guitar, a hole in his instrument still visible.

Police said the attacker wounded a number of people in the port area, a popular tourist zone in Israel's commercial capital, before going toward a restaurant and stabbing several others.

There were no details yet on the American's identity.

Biden met former Israeli president Shimon Peres soon after his arrival, at a venue located about a 15-minute walk from where the stabbings occurred.

‘He just started stabbing people’

Wave of violence

"I heard two guys screaming that there was an attack," a woman who gave her name as Emily told AFP.

"I ran in the opposite direction and ran into a man who was on the ground in his blood."

"[I] covered him with my jacket,” she said, adding: “He was badly injured and we waited together for the ambulances to come."

A wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories since October has killed 184 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car attacks. Others were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes or demonstrations.

The number of attacks had diminished recently, but there were four separate assaults Tuesday. Two occurred in Jerusalem, including one that saw a Palestinian shoot and seriously wound two Israeli police officers before being shot dead.

Earlier, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab Israeli police officers in Jerusalem's Old City before being shot and killed.

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jew in a liquor store in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv. The victim and owner of the shop pounced on the attacker, seized his weapon and killed him, police said, adding that they suspected it was a "terrorist" attack but have not ruled out other possible motives.

Attacks target Jerusalem’s ancient Damascus Gate

No new peace initiatives

Biden is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.

The White House has said Biden will not be pursuing any major new peace initiatives during his visit.

Before the spate of violence on Tuesday, Biden's visit had already been overshadowed by a new diplomatic spat between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's decision not to accept an invitation for talks with Obama in Washington later this month "surprised" the White House, which first learned of it through news reports.

The Israeli premier's office defended the decision by saying Netanyahu did not want to interfere in the US presidential primary elections, which are currently under way.

Obama and Netanyahu's testy personal relationship was complicated by the Israeli prime minister's forceful opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, which included a controversial speech to the US Congress.

But they have sought to set aside their disagreements in recent months and work out a new 10-year defence aid package for Israel, as well as demonstrate that the ties between the two traditional allies remain strong. Talks are expected to focus on the $3.1 billion annual aid package in addition to projects such as missile defence.

Biden and Netanyahu also plan to talk about the regional fight against the Islamic State group. On Monday Biden was in the United Arab Emirates, where he said Washington aimed to "squeeze the heart of" the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

But he also ruled out the idea that there could be solely a military solution to end Syria's conflict and called for a political transition.

After his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Biden will travel to Jordan.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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