In latest violence, Israeli police kill Palestinian teen assailant and West Bank bomb hurts Israelis

Josef Federman

AP  /  August 31, 2023

JERUSALEM – Israeli police on Wednesday shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed a man in a Jerusalem light-rail station, officials said, while Palestinian militants detonated a bomb near a convoy of Israeli troops escorting Jewish worshippers to a holy site in the occupied West Bank, wounding four Israeli troops.

The attacks came hours after fighting erupted in a Palestinian refugee camp between local residents and their own security forces, leaving a 25-year-old Palestinian man dead.

The bloodshed was the latest in a deadly wave of violence that has gripped the area over the past year and a half and shows no signs of slowing.

The Israeli army said that the late-night explosion in Nablus — a stronghold of Palestinian militants in the northern West Bank — wounded an Israeli military officer and three soldiers.

The soldiers were evacuated to a nearby hospital for treatment. One was moderately wounded and the rest suffered only light wounds. Amateur video on social media showed a large plume of white smoke rising into the air after the blast.

The troops were escorting worshippers to Joseph’s Tomb – a flashpoint shrine where some Jews believe the biblical Joseph is buried. The Israeli army said the blast struck when its forces were trying to clear the way for worshippers and that no civilians were harmed.

Muslims say a sheikh is buried in the shrine. The army escorts Jewish worshippers to the site several times a year in coordination with Palestinian security forces.

But security coordination has weakened during the wave of fighting, and the unpopular Palestinian security forces have struggled to maintain control in militant strongholds like Nablus.

The explosion came shortly after Wednesday’s stabbing in Jerusalem – in which police said a Palestinian teen attacked a man, moderately wounding him, before he was shot and killed.

The incident occurred along the invisible line straddling east and west Jerusalem.

According to police, the boy stabbed the man on a platform at the station. An off-duty member of the paramilitary border police force in a train noticed the attack, got off the train and shot the attacker. Police later released a photo of what they said was the knife, its tip stained with blood.

However, it was unclear if the boy, identified as a resident of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem, was still armed when he was killed in what was described as a fast-moving incident.

The police statement said a crowd of people “began to struggle with the terrorist” after the stabbing.

One witness, Eldad Bar-Kochva, told the Ynet news site that he was sitting at the station with his wife when the boy took out the knife.

“We pounced on him, I gave him a strong kick in the face and hand, and the knife fell out of his hand. A border policeman ran over and shot him,” he said, adding that the entire incident unfolded in about 30 seconds. Police praised the “professional and swift response” of the officer and said security camera footage wasn’t immediately available.

Earlier Wednesday, fighting erupted in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank between Palestinians and their own security forces, leaving a 25-year-old Palestinian dead, officials said. The unrest underscored the challenges facing Palestinian police trying to impose order in the restive territory.

Palestinian police entered the refugee camp in Tulkarem after residents appealed to the Palestinian Authority to remove metal street barriers set up by local militants that were blocking access to homes and schools, Palestinian security spokesperson Talal Dweikat said.

The angled metal barricades are a staple in the militarized refugee camps of the northern West Bank, meant to deter Israeli military vehicles during frequent army raids.

After police cleared the streets, Dweikat said Palestinian militants opened fire in front of the Tulkarem Muqata, the authority headquarters. Police responded “to control the security situation,” he added.

A Palestinian security officer in Tulkarem, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said that an uninvolved Palestinian resident who he identified as the 25-year-old was caught in the crossfire and killed.

He claimed the Palestinian security forces had fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants but not live fire. Palestinians, he said, were seeking to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death but the local militant group refused and was keeping his body.

The Hamas militant group condemned the death.

In flashpoint point cities in the northern West Bank under the administration of the Palestinian Authority, attempts by Palestinian security forces to reassert internal control have stirred anger among defiant militants, who deride the unpopular authority and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, as collaborators with Israel. The PA administers semi-autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied territory.

Unable to protect Palestinians against surging attacks by Jewish settlers and often deadly Israeli military raids into Palestinian towns and cities, Palestinian security forces have faced deep public criticism over their perceived impotence and reviled security alliance with Israel.

Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the start of this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and those not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Some 30 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that time.

Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces, inspire more militancy and entrench Israeli control over lands they seek for a hoped-for future state.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report