Palestinian attackers on Monday stabbed to death an Israeli soldier and a woman in separate incidents, the latest incidents of violence between Arabs and Jews that have surged since the end of last summer’s Gaza war.
The solider was killed at a Tel Aviv train station and the woman died near a West Bank settlement.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions that exploded in Israel’s war against the militant group Hamas in Gaza this past summer have been stoked by an escalating dispute over the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem.
The midday stabbing in Tel Aviv, Israel’s business and cultural hub, unsettled Israelis, signaling a spread of spontaneous Palestinian attacks and heightening concerns that the violence could spin out of control.
Reflecting the confrontational mood, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised tougher penalties against Palestinian attackers, including demolition of their family homes, and he lashed out at Israeli Arabs who have protested the police killing of an Israeli Arab youth in a confrontation on Saturday.
The fatal shooting, after the youth attacked a police van, triggered stone-throwing protests and demonstrations in Israeli Arab towns.
“To all those who are demonstrating and shouting slogans denouncing the state of Israel and for a Palestinian state, I say, plain and simple: ‘You are welcome to go over there, to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza, I promise you that the state of Israel will not impede you in any way,’” Netanyahu said.
Benzi Sau, Tel Aviv’s police chief, told Israel Radio that a Palestinian from the area of Nablus, a city in the West Bank, stabbed the soldier “several times and tried to seize his weapon” at a train station on a busy street in south Tel Aviv. He said the suspected assailant, who was described as 18 and was said to have entered Israel without a permit, was arrested after he fled to a nearby building.
The soldier, identified as Sgt. Almog Shiloni, 20, was hospitalized in critical condition and later died of his wounds.
Hours after the Tel Aviv attack, a Palestinian motorist plowed into a bus stop and stabbed pedestrians outside the settlement of Alon Shvut, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, killing a woman and wounding two other people.
Security camera footage showed a speeding vehicle hitting the woman, and the driver getting out and stabbing her on the ground. The attacker stabbed two other people before he was shot and seriously wounded by a settlement security guard.
The slain woman was identified as Dalia Lemkus, 26, from the nearby settlement of Tekoa. The attacker was identified as Maher Hashlamoun, 30, a former prisoner from the city of Hebron known as a supporter of the militant Islamic Jihad group.
There have been two attacks in recent weeks in Jerusalem where Palestinian assailants have rammed vehicles into pedestrians near stops of the city’s light rail line, killing four people.
Stone-throwing Palestinian youths have clashed with police daily in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
The unrest has been fueled by a dispute over access to the compound containing Al Aqsa mosque, which is revered by Jews as the site of the two ancient Jewish temples and by Muslims as the third holiest site of Islam.
Rightist Israeli lawmakers and activists have stepped up efforts to secure greater Jewish access to the site, and a prominent Israeli campaigner for Jewish prayer there was shot and seriously wounded on Oct. 29. The suspected Palestinian shooter was killed by police, setting off days of street protests in Arab neighborhoods.