A Palestinian wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt stabbed a Border Police officer in the upper body, moderately wounding him, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday during a violent Palestinian protest, police said.
“A terrorist approached Border Police officers who were responding to a riot at the Judea and Samaria Square in Ramallah, and stabbed one of them,” police said, adding that they were investigating the possibility that the terrorist was “mingling with journalists and posing as a one” in order to get close to the troops.
The assailant was shot by the other officers at the scene and was seriously wounded. He later died of his wounds, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said, naming him as Mohammed Aqal, 29.
The apparent explosive belt did not go off. Police said they were investigating if it was a real bomb or only a device meant to look like one. The attacker, still wearing the apparent suicide bomb belt, was taken away from the scene for medical treatment by the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service. Later, Hadashot news said the suicide belt was a model that did not contain actual explosives.
The officer was treated at the scene and then taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where he was listed in “a moderate condition with two stab wounds in the upper body.” The hospital said his condition was stable and he was undergoing examinations before being operated on.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the security forces.
“I praise the work of the Border Police force that took out the terrorist,” Netanyahu tweeted, adding that he sends his wishes for a speedy recovery to the soldier who was wounded. “Thank you to our forces who protect us around the clock. Everybody salutes you.”
Once a mainstay of Palestinian terrorist tactics during the second intifada, suicide bombings have become exceedingly rare in recent years. The last suicide bombing occurred in April 2016, when a Palestinian terrorist blew up a bus in Jerusalem, killing himself and injuring 20 people, in an attack organized by Hamas.
Friday’s stabbing took place in the midst of a violent protest against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last Wednesday.
Also 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 at the scene and taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.
Palestinian media said that a number of protesters sustained light wounds after being hit by Israeli tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, but no serious injuries were reported as of Friday afternoon.
Following noon-time prayers, riots were reported in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Qalqilya and Nablus. Demonstrators burned tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Hundreds of Palestinians also took part in protests throughout the Gaza Strip, according to local media.
While widespread, the protests initially appeared to be less violent than the previous week’s, and had fewer participants.
Hundreds of additional IDF soldiers were deployed across the West Bank and on the Gaza border ahead of the demonstrations against Trump’s proclamation.
Clashes were also expected in Jerusalem but following relative clam in the capital last week, police did not to impose any age restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying on the 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.