Four Palestinians died on Friday afternoon after being shot in clashes with Israeli security forces during protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said, as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated for a second week against Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer in the upper torso before being shot, died on Friday evening, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said, naming him as Mohammed Aqal, 29.
Aqal stabbed and moderately wounded the Israeli officer, who was later reported to be in stable condition in the hospital. When officers noticed he was wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomb belt, they shot him again, fearing he would detonate it, police said.
He was taken away by Palestinian medics and later died of his wounds, the health ministry said.
Hadashot news said the suicide belt was a model that did not contain actual explosives.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 15, 2017
Another Palestinian was killed in clashes in Anata on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem, the ministry in Ramallah said, naming him as Bassel Ibrahim, 24. It said he had been shot.
Two more Palestinians were killed along the Gaza-Israel border, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said. They were named as Yasser Sokar, 32, and Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, 29. The ministry said Abu Thurayeh, who had previously lost both his legs, was shot east of Gaza City in the north of the coastal enclave.
The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment. Earlier, the army said it opened fire on the “main instigators” of violent protests at the Gaza border after they failed to heed repeated calls to stop approaching the fence.
Second man shot dead in Gaza clashes with Israeli army, according to Palestinian health ministry. He had already lost his legs (allegedly in previous war but unconfirmed). Picture below allegedly shows him pic.twitter.com/7T71glhvXy
— Joe (@joedyke) December 15, 2017
Israel’s Army Radio reported 3,500 Gazans demonstrated at nine locations along the fence around the Hamas-run enclave, lighting fires and throwing rocks.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, has urged a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem in the wake of President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
In the West Bank on Friday, some 2,500 Palestinians took part in violent protests, the IDF said, thousands less than in the week before.
“IDF soldiers are responding with riot dispersal means in the main locations,” the army said.
Following noon-time prayers, riots were reported in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Nablus. Demonstrators burned tires and threw petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that dozens of protesters sustained light wounds after being hit by Israeli tear gas canisters and rubber bullets during the West Bank clashes.
In Jerusalem itself, around 30,000 people prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, according to the Islamic organization that administers the site.
The vast majority left without incident, but small scuffles broke out in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Earlier on Friday, a 30-year-old Israeli was lightly injured near the West Bank town of Hizme, outside Jerusalem, when Palestinians threw rocks at his car.
He was treated at the scene by medics and taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.
While widespread, the protests against Trump’s proclamation appeared to draw smaller crowds than the previous week’s.
Hundreds of additional IDF soldiers were deployed across the West Bank and on the Gaza border ahead of the rallies.
Following relative calm in the capital last week, police did not to impose any age restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. At times of expected violence, Israeli authorities sometimes limit access to the site for young men, who are more likely to clash with police.
In an address last week from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
Palestinians, angered by what they saw as the US dismissing their claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, called for demonstrations and “days of rage.” Hamas leaders also urged the start of a new intifada, or uprising.
Since then, a total of 67 people have been arrested for riot-related crimes during disturbances that flared up in Jerusalem, police said in a statement Thursday.
Over the past two days, 37 arrests were carried out in East Jerusalem neighborhoods including A-Tur, Shuafat, Wadi Joz, Ras al-Amud, Issawiya and the Old City of Jerusalem. The suspects were all taken in for questioning and later brought to court for hearings.
Another 30 detainees were arrested during riots, police said.
There was no official statement on the total number of Palestinian suspects arrested for participating in West Bank riots.
Police said a combination of fieldwork, intelligence gathering, surveillance and the use of technology, along with determined detective work, led to the arrest of key suspects in the violent demonstrations.
During riots at various locations in the capital in recent days, protesters threw stones, glass bottles, Molotov cocktails and other objects at officers as well as blocking roads, burning garbage cans and shooting firecrackers at police. Several officers have been injured.
The West Bank has also seen daily confrontations between protesters and IDF troops. A video released by the army Wednesday showed undercover troops arresting rock throwers during a riot.
On Israel’s southern border with Gaza, protests along the border fence have been accompanied by a marked uptick in rocket attacks, with over a dozen missiles fired since Trump’s speech.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Israelis to “relax,” despite the dramatic increase in the number of rocket attacks from Gaza over the past week.
Speaking from the southern city of Sderot, Liberman said the rocket fire was the result of internal Palestinian political spats and not an indication that terrorist groups were no longer afraid of Israel.
The reassurance from the ordinarily bellicose defense minister appeared to be a response to growing calls for the Israel Defense Forces to take more aggressive action against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the rocket attacks.
While most missiles have been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, two missiles fired over the previous weekend managed to cause damage to cars and buildings in Sderot.
After more than three years with limited rocket fire from Gaza — 26 rockets were fired in 2015, 20 in 2016, and nine from January to November 2017 — the sudden spike in December has raised concerns Israel might be headed for another war with terrorist groups in the Strip.