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Security forces foil possible stabbing attack near Jericho

Palestinian man, 23, arrested at checkpoint after knife found in his possession

Illustrative photo of Border Police officers checking the papers of Palestinian drivers at a checkpoint, May 9, 2010. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Border Police officers checking the papers of Palestinian drivers at a checkpoint, May 9, 2010. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Security forces thwarted a possible stabbing attack at a checkpoint in Jericho in the Jordan Valley on Saturday when they arrested a Palestinian man in possession of a knife.

The 23-year-old Palestinian was taken in for questioning.

The foiled attack is the latest incident in a spate of terror attacks that have included stabbings, car-rammings, shootings and a suicide bombing over the past seven months. The violence has claimed the lives of 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals. Some 200 Palestinians have also been killed for the same period, the majority of then while carrying out attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

On Friday, Border Police arrested a Palestinian man in possession of a knife in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The 26-year-old Hebron resident was detained outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Jews and Muslims, and was suspected of planning to attack Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian had approached an Israeli checkpoint and did not respond to calls from police to stop. Israeli forces subsequently arrested him and found he was concealing a knife on his body, according to the police.

Upon his arrest, the would-be assailant said he planned to attack Israeli troops, the police said.

The weekend incidents also came amid sky-high tensions this week between Israel and Gaza’s rulers Hamas as a series of cross-border skirmishes threatened to escalate to full-blown violence.

On Saturday morning, Palestinians fired two rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, prompting the IDF to respond with air strikes.

It was Israel’s fifth series of airstrikes since Wednesday, when tensions spiraled over IDF efforts to locate attack tunnels dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israeli territory.

Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

One of the two rockets fired from Gaza landed in an open area of the Eshkol regional council overnight Friday-Saturday. The second fell close to the border fence, Army Radio said. There were no injuries or damage reported in either strike. Air raid sirens sounded across the region as the rockets were fired.

Friday was the fourth day in a row in which IDF troops on the border came under mortar fire, as troops worked to unearth cross-border underground passages from the Gaza Strip. No troops have thus far been injured in the attacks, although some engineering vehicles have been damaged, according to the army.

On Thursday, a Palestinian woman was killed when Israeli tank shells hit her home east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, according to the southern city’s Nasser Hospital. The woman was identified by the hospital as Zeina al-Amour, 54.

Smoke billows over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip as Israel Air Force planes struck four Hamas military targets, May 5, 2016. (Screenshot: Shehab News Agency)
Smoke billows over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip as Israel Air Force planes struck four Hamas military targets, May 5, 2016. (Screenshot: Shehab News Agency)

The uptick in violence was also felt throughout Israel and the West Bank after weeks of relative calm.

On Monday night, an ultra-Orthodox man in his 60s was moderately wounded in a stabbing attack at Lions’ Gate, outside Jerusalem’s Old City. On Tuesday, three Israel Defense Forces soldiers were injured, one seriously, in a car-ramming attack near the West Bank settlement of Dolev. And Wednesday, a teenage Arab girl was arrested in the Old City in possession of a knife.

The calm had been previously shattered by an April 18 bus bombing, in which a Palestinian resident of Bethlehem blew himself up in Jerusalem, injuring 20 people and killing himself. Israel said the attacker was a Hamas member. Although the terror group praised the attack, it avoided claiming responsibility.

Last month, Israeli officials had pointed to a marked decrease in Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks in and around Jerusalem, following months of near-daily assaults throughout Israel and the West Bank.

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