TEL AVIV — Less than a mile from where Vice President Biden spoke at a center for peace, a Palestinian attacker went on stabbing rampage Tuesday that left an American tourist dead and 10 wounded before the assailant was fatally shot by police, officials said.
The knife attack on the Mediterranean coast in the ancient port of Jaffa followed three other attacks around Israel on Tuesday.
It is unknown whether the assaults were timed to generate attention during Biden’s visit. But Israelis were left toggling between images on news and social media showing Biden’s Air Force Two jet landing at Ben Gurion airport and chaotic scenes of wailing ambulances and blood stains.
At least 14 Israelis were wounded, some seriously, in the four attacks. All of the four Palestinian assailants were killed at the scenes.
After hearing news of the knife spree, Biden “condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal attack, which occurred in Jaffa during his meeting” and said “there is no justification for such acts of terror.”
Palestinians have sought to justify the attacks, saying their people are living desperate lives under an almost 50-year military occupation. Israeli leaders say the Palestinians are fueled by anti-Semitic propaganda. The peace process is currently moribund.
Biden came to Israel to patch up relations between the Obama White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a very public and deeply partisan spat over the Iran nuclear deal last year. Embarking on a two-day trip to Israel and the West Bank, Biden met with former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Israeli police spokesperson Luba Samri said the attack in Jaffa appeared to have been carried out by a single assailant at two separate locations — the Ottoman-era Clock Tower and the ancient port — both popular with locals and tourists, in a city populated by Arabs and Jews.
The assailant was chased by a man with a metal pipe and was hit by another with a guitar before he was cornered by police and shot dead.
Vanderbilt University, in a message from Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos posted on its website late Tuesday, identified the slain American as Taylor Force, a student at the Owen Graduate School of Management. Zeppos said Force was on an Owen school trip to Tel Aviv, and all the other students and faculty on the trip are safe.
Force, 28, a graduate of the United States Military Academy West Point, was a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the family of Force. “As we have said many times, there is absolutely no justification for terrorism. We continue to encourage all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and restore calm,” department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, near the Damascus Gate in the Old City in Jerusalem, just minutes from the hotel where Biden is planning to stay during his visit, a Palestinian gunman shot at Israeli policemen, injuring two. The assailant was shot dead by Israeli forces.
Another attack on Tuesday afternoon took place in Petah Tikvah, a city near Tel Aviv, where a Palestinian from the West Bank entered a supermarket and stabbed an Israeli man. According to police reports, the victim managed to pull the knife out of his neck and stab his attacker.
Earlier in the morning, a 50-year-old Palestinian woman was shot dead after attempting to stab Israeli policemen in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police said.
Israel’s intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, said Israel is “in the midst of a war against ISIS-style Muslim extremist terror.” He said Israelis should not “be scolded” by the international community for taking tough countermeasures.
A leader of the Israeli opposition in parliament and a former peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni, told the Jerusalem Post that Biden's visit could help “lower the flames” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Tuesday’s bloodshed comes amid six months of near-daily stabbing, shooting and vehicle attacks by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Twenty-nine Israelis and five others, including two Americans, have died. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed during their attacks. Another 50 have been shot and killed by Israelis during violent clashes.
Eglash reported from Jerusalem. Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.