A surge of lethal Palestinian-Israeli violence triggered by clashes at a contested holy site has raised fears of a slide into a new Palestinian uprising, even though both sides are signaling that they are not seeking a broader confrontation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned trip to Germany on Wednesday as a rash of Palestinian attacks spread from the West Bank and East Jerusalem to central and southern Israel, with police reporting three stabbings of Israelis within hours.
Israel is facing a “wave of terror” in which “civilians are on the front line,” Netanyahu warned, urging Israelis to stand firm.
Netanyahu has traditionally portrayed himself as tough on security, but he has struggled to come up with an effective response to an eruption of violence that has left four Israelis and five Palestinians dead in the past week.
They included an Israeli settler couple gunned down in their car as they rode with their children on a West Bank road, and a Palestinian schoolboy fatally struck by a bullet fired by Israeli troops to repel a violent protest.
Violent Palestinian protests have increased since clashes broke out last month between Arab youths and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.
The violence spread to more Israeli cities on Wednesday.
A Palestinian got off a bus in Petah Tikva, a Tel Aviv suburb, and stabbed a man, a police spokeswoman said, adding that the assailant was overpowered and taken into custody.
In the southern city of Kiryat Gat, a 19-year-old from the West Bank seized an Israeli soldier’s rifle and stabbed him before being killed by police when he confronted them in a nearby apartment building.
Earlier, an 18-year-old Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli in Jerusalem’s Old City, according to police, who added that the man fired back with his pistol, seriously wounding the assailant.
The attack took place near the site of a fatal stabbing on Saturday night in which two Orthodox Jews were killed.
Near Bethlehem in the West Bank on Wednesday, an Israeli settler was dragged from her vehicle and beaten after her vehicle was stoned, and other settlers opened fire at the fleeing attackers, the army said.
Palestinians reported that two 18-year-old students involved in the assault were wounded.
Confronting hundreds of protesters who hurled stones and firebombs near the settlement of Beit El, which is north of Ramallah in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers opened fire and wounded two Palestinians, one of them seriously, according to an army spokeswoman.
Violent Palestinian protests have increased since clashes broke out last month between Arab youths and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, an area known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Palestinians as the Noble Sanctuary.
The area is the most sensitive flashpoint of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and efforts by Israeli activists and rightist politicians to promote greater Jewish access to the site have alarmed many Palestinians.
Netanyahu has ordered tougher measures to quell the violence, including greater use of gunfire against stone-throwers and demolition of family homes of attackers. But he has rejected calls by settler leaders and their rightist allies to respond with stepped-up building in Israeli settlements, citing opposition to such a move overseas.
Senior Israeli army officers met their Palestinian counterparts on Tuesday in an attempt to defuse tensions after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was not seeking a wider clash with Israel.
“We do not want a military or security escalation between us and you,” Abbas said, addressing the Israelis. “All our instructions to our security forces, political organizations, youth and people are that we don’t want escalation.”