Policeman dies after being stabbed by Palestinian, hit by friendly fire

Palestinian teen pulls knife when forces board bus at Jerusalem checkpoint to routinely question passengers; civilian guard accidentally hits Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed with gunfire

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The scene of a Palestinian attack at the entrance to Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. Insert: Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed, killed in the attack. (Israel Police)
The scene of a Palestinian attack at the entrance to Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. Insert: Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed, killed in the attack. (Israel Police)

In a second attack in Jerusalem within hours, a police officer was killed in a stabbing attack at a checkpoint near the entrance of the Shuafat refugee camp on Monday evening, law enforcement officials and medics said.

According to a police spokesperson, the Border Police officer and another civilian security guard boarded a bus that arrived at the checkpoint, in order to question the passengers heading into Jerusalem, in a routine inspection, when a teenage suspect pulled out a knife.

Police said the Palestinian managed to stab the officer and wound him.

The civilian security guard then opened fire at the alleged stabber inside the bus, but accidentally hit the Border Police officer.

The alleged stabber, identified as 13-year-old Muhammad Bassel Fathi Zalbani, a resident of the Shuafat Refugee Camp, was detained. He was not hurt by the gunfire.

The officer was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in the capital in critical condition, due to wounds sustained from both the stabbing and gunfire.

He later died of his wounds, and was named as Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed, 22.

Sawaed, from the northern Bedouin village of Hussniyya, was a non-commissioned officer in the force after completing his mandatory service.

A knife used in a Palestinian stabbing attack against Border Police officers on a bus at the entrance to Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, February 13, 2023. (Israel Police)

The checkpoint leading to the Shuafat refugee camp was closed while police forces conducted operations in the area, law enforcement officials said.

Clashes erupted in the camp as police forces detained the parents and brother of the stabber, police said.

Stones were hurled at the officers, and at one point a car allegedly accelerated toward them, according to police. The officers fired at the car and the driver was wounded. His condition was not immediately clear.

The attack came just hours after a 14-year-old Palestinian, also from the Shuafat refugee camp, allegedly stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli teenager in Jerusalem’s Old City.

A spokesman for the Hamas terror group welcomed the two attacks in Jerusalem as “heroic operations,” and as a reaction to Israel’s decision to legalize nine outposts in the West Bank.

“Our youth will deal with the occupation’s aggression and the extremist government’s fascism with courage and violence,” the spokesman said.

The stabbings came as tensions were high in the region, especially in Jerusalem, following a string of Palestinian terror attacks in recent weeks that left 10 people dead and several more seriously hurt.

Three Israelis, including two brothers aged 6 and 8, were killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem on Friday.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he instructed police to prepare for a major operation in East Jerusalem starting this week following the Friday attack, although other government officials said he did not have the authority to do so on his own.

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