Israeli soldiers have killed a Palestinian teenage boy in the West Bank on Monday during ongoing clashes between Palestinians and police.
The escalating violence over the past few days has seen a hundred Palestinians wounded, and spiked on Monday when the Israeli government decided to shut out Palestinians from entering Jerusalem’s Old City during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
The move, which even the Israeli police called “drastic,” came after the fatal stabbing there Saturday of an off-duty Israeli soldier and a well-known rabbi.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised “an all-out war against Palestinian terrorism.” Palestinians who live, work or study in the Old City will be allowed in.
The 18-year-old Palestinian teenager killed Monday was at a demonstration, one of many across the West Bank, according to a doctor at Tulkarem hospital in the northern West Bank.
Sunday brought waves of arrests of Palestinians and violent demonstrations across the West Bank, with the Palestinian Red Crescent saying more than 100 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and live rounds. The Red Crescent declared its own “state of emergency,” saying their ambulances and staff have come under attack by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.
Israeli police said Palestinians also threw rocks and firebombs in mostly Arab areas of Jerusalem overnight.
They said the two-day closure of the Old City was intended to protect visitors arriving for Sukkot. Israel has been celebrating the high Jewish holidays over the past two weeks.
Tensions in the Old City, the site of the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque and the hilltop compound revered by both Jews and Palestinians, have sparked the recent violence. Known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the compound, at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is a frequent flashpoint for violence.
There have been several days of clashes at the site over the past few weeks as Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque while hurling stones, firebombs and fireworks at police. The unrest later spread to Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and to the West Bank.
“This is a drastic measure that’s being taken in order to make sure there are no further attacks during the Jewish festival, where you can see thousands of people visiting the Old City,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, according to the Associated Press.
Israel and the West Bank have been on edge since the deadly knife attack late Saturday and the fatal shooting of an Israeli couple driving in the West Bank on Thursday.
According to Israeli police, a Palestinian teenager attacked Aharon Benita, 22, an off-duty Israeli soldier, and his wife near the Lions’ Gate in the Old City on Saturday night. The soldier was wearing civilian clothes. The couple had their 2-year-old son and an infant daughter in strollers.
Hearing the cries for help, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, who lives in the Muslim quarter of the Old City, ran to confront the assailant.
Lavi and Benita were fatally stabbed. Benita’s wife, Adele, was seriously wounded. The couple’s toddler was lightly injured.
“I yelled ‘Please help me!’ and they just spat at me,” Adele Benita said of the surrounding Palestinian shopkeepers in an interview with the Israeli news site Ynet.
Lavi was a married father of seven and a leader of a Jewish religious school run by Ateret Cohanim, an organization dedicated to displacing Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Old City and creating a Jewish majority there.
Thousands attended Lavi’s funeral in Jerusalem on Sunday, including Zev Bareitan. His daughter has married into the Lavi family.
Bareitan called Lavi “a hero” and said Lavi’s oldest son “told us his father wasn’t murdered. His father was killed fighting the enemy. He heard screams and knew it was a terror attack. He died fighting a terrorist.”
Bareitan said security in the Old City was “very limited,” and he called on the Netanyahu government to crack down.
“We’re a country at war,” he said.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in his eulogy for Lavi, “We will reach the killers of the innocent and pure, and we will reach their inciters and their dispatchers and will deliver them a stinging blow.”
The 19-year-old Palestinian assailant, Mohannad Halabi, was a law student studying at al-Quds University. He was shot dead at the scene by police.
His Facebook page warned that “the third intifada has begun” and suggested that the uprising was a reaction to Israeli provocations at the al-Aqsa mosque site.