Two lightly injured in stabbing at West Bank checkpoint, assailant shot dead

Attacker, identified as Palestinian teen, accused of knifing guard and IDF cop on bypass road into capital; police chief says tensions rising ahead of Friday Ramadan prayers

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

Police and security personnel at the scene of a stabbing attack at the 'Tunnels Checkpoint', near Jerusalem, on March 13, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Police and security personnel at the scene of a stabbing attack at the 'Tunnels Checkpoint', near Jerusalem, on March 13, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A Palestinian teen stabbed two people at a West Bank checkpoint near Jerusalem Wednesday, as tensions in the capital threatened to ramp up ahead of key Friday prayers for Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Both victims were hospitalized with light injuries, medics and hospital spokespeople said. The assailant was shot dead, police said.

The pair were identified as a 25-year-old man working as a civilian security guard, and a 19-year-old woman serving with IDF Military Police, according to authorities.

The attack took place at the so-called “Tunnels” checkpoint, on a highway that links the Etzion settlement bloc to Jerusalem via two tunnels bypassing the Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem.

“The area has become a choice location for terror attacks,” Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said from the scene. “This is the third time in a row. There are too many extremists trying to escalate the situation, and they’re on social media too.”

Attacks last occurred at the checkpoint in November and October.

The Magen David Adom emergency medicine service said both victims were taken to hospitals in Jerusalem, where they were listed in good-to-moderate condition.

Police said the assailant was shot by security forces at the scene. Images from the scene showed the suspect lying on the ground after being shot. He was later declared dead.

Police identified the assailant as Muhammad Abu Hamed, 15, from the West Bank town of al-Khader, near the checkpoint, which sits on Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south thoroughfare.

According to police, Abu Hamed arrived at the checkpoint on a bicycle, and as security forces attempted to question him he drew a knife and began stabbing people.

A civilian guard at the checkpoint attempted to physically halt him before IDF troops stationed in the area opened fire and fatally hit him.

The knife allegedly used in a stabbing attack at the “tunnels” checkpoint in the West Bank on March 13, 2023 (Israel Police)

Security forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been on high alert since Ramadan started earlier this week. Israeli security officials feared that Muslim anger over the Gaza war could rise to a crescendo during Ramadan, fueling unrest, especially if Israeli authorities attempt to limit access to the Haram al-Sharif holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

A key test will come Friday, when the site normally sees the largest number of visitors, with friction between Muslim worshipers and Israeli forces liable to boil over into unrest.

Shabtai acknowledged that tensions have been rising ahead of the noontime prayer. He said police were doing everything they could to continue allowing religious freedom to Israeli Muslims, though Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank may still face restrictions.

“I hope we’ll react [to conditions] correctly if needed,” Shabtai said.

Tensions are already high between Israelis and Palestinians due to the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza following the October 7 massacre, which saw Hamas terrorists murder about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnap 253.

Palestinians say over 400 people have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since hostilities broke out, including four killed late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Jenin and in a village north of Jerusalem.

Most have been killed while carrying out attacks or during clashes with IDF troops during nightly raids that have largely concentrated on a handful of areas in the northern West Bank. However, killings of innocent bystanders have also been alleged.

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