JERUSALEM — An Israeli woman waiting at a bus stop near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and an Israeli soldier in downtown Tel Aviv were killed Monday in two separate attacks by knife-wielding Palestinian men.
Israeli authorities described both assaults as terrorist
attacks. The incidents follow months of violent confrontation between rock-throwing Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its religious sites.
More violent demonstrations broke out in northern Israel over the weekend after Israeli police fatally shot an Arab Israeli who had run up and stabbed at a police car. A video of that shooting has inflamed both Palestinians and Israelis.
The knife attacks Monday add to growing unease among Israelis that security for ordinary citizens is threatened. Palestinians, too, complain of heavy-handed police operations in Jerusalem that have restricted their movements and led to mass arrests of young people.
The rising number of attacks has led some Israelis to declare that Palestinians are on the verge of a third uprising, or intifada.
Military and police officials, however, say the deadly attacks are mostly perpetrated by lone assailants with loose ties to terrorist groups. The rock-throwing youths are even less organized.
“Right now it is more of a mini-intifada,” said Shaul Bartal, an expert on the Palestinian militant group Hamas who lectures at the Israeli military academy. “Any little thing that happens now could burn the area.”
In the past month in Jerusalem, Palestinian drivers in two separate hit-and-run attacks intentionally plowed their cars into crowded tramway stations, killing four people.
In another case that inflamed passions on both sides, a Palestinian man attempted to assassinate a prominent and provocative Israeli activist who wants Jews to be allowed to pray on the raised esplanade known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, a holy site to both religions. The activist survived the attack; his assailant died in a gunfight with police.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to stop the violence. His government announced plans to increase penalties for rock-throwing and to demolish the family homes of Arab Israelis and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who are involved in attacks — a tactic until now used only in the West Bank.
Netanyahu said the attacks were motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel. “The terrorists and those who incite them want to get rid of us wherever we are. As far as they’re concerned, we don’t need to be in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said.
The attack in Tel Aviv took place near a busy train station. An off-duty Israeli soldier in his early 20s, who was wearing his uniform, was stabbed multiple times. Passersby told Israel Radio that the soldier chased the assailant, shouting, “Terrorist!” The suspect, from a Palestinian refugee camp in Nablus in the West Bank, was taken into custody after fleeing to a nearby building. Authorities said he had entered Israel illegally.
Later in the afternoon, three Israelis were stabbed, one fatally, by a Palestinian man at a busy West Bank intersection near the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut.
Israeli intelligence officers identified the attacker as Maher Hamdi Shalmon, 30, a resident of Hebron affiliated with Islamic Jihad, one of the groups that fought a 50-day war with Israel in Gaza this summer. Israeli officials said Shalmon had served five years in prison for throwing a firebomb at Israeli troops.
According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the attacker drove his car close to the bus stop, crashing it into one of the concrete barriers placed there for security. After smashing into the barrier, he began slashing at people with a knife, Rosenfeld said.
One of the victims was Dalia Lamkus, 25, a resident of a neighboring settlement, who died of her wounds. Two others were taken to a hospital.
A security guard shot the alleged assailant, who was transferred from the scene to a nearby hospital in critical condition.