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Stabbings hike tensions ahead of Arafat anniversary

Nov. 11, 2014 10:05 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 12, 2014 10:44 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The fatal stabbing of an Israeli soldier and settler further heightened tensions as Palestinians were set Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of iconic leader Yasser Arafat.

Monday's violence began in Tel Aviv, where a Palestinian teenager from the northern West Bank stabbed a soldier who later died of his wounds in hospital. The assailant fled but was arrested.

Hours later, another Palestinian attacked three Israelis outside the Alon Shvut settlement in the southern West Bank, killing a young woman and wounding two other people before a security guard shot and critically wounded him.

The bloodshed took place after months of clashes in and around annexed East Jerusalem, with the unrest spreading to Palestinian areas of Israel over the weekend after police shot dead a young Palestinian with Israeli citizenship during an arrest operation.

Events marking the 10th anniversary of Arafat's death have been cancelled in the Gaza Strip due to security concerns, but are expected to go ahead in the West Bank.

The Palestinian leader, who signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel but walked away from talks hosted by the US at Camp David in 2000, died aged 75 at a hospital in Paris in 2004.

His death remains clouded in mystery, with some research indicating he may have been poisoned by polonium, a theory which is accepted by many Palestinians.

'Situation could further deteriorate'

The knife attacks were condemned by the United States and the European Union.

"It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The office of EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini warned the situation could further deteriorate "in the absence of political perspective."

A wave of violence has gripped annexed East Jerusalem for the past four months and has recently spread to Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel.

Anger initially boiled in Jerusalem in early July over the murder of a Palestinian teenager by young Jewish extremists.

It has been fueled by religious tensions at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as well as by moves to expand settler presence in the occupied eastern sector of the holy city.

Since July, police have arrested some 900 Palestinians for public order offences in East Jerusalem and indicted around a third of them.

The unrest spread at the weekend after police shot dead a 22-year-old Palestinian in Kufr Kana near the northern city of Nazareth, triggering a wave of rioting in Palestinian areas, some of which continued until early Monday.

Police claim the officers fired warning shots before shooting directly at him.

But relatives say Kheir Hamdan was killed "in cold blood," with CCTV images contradicting the official version and showing an officer shooting him as he was running away from the scene.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday that anyone breaking the law would be "punished severely."

"We will not tolerate disturbances and riots. We will take determined action against those who throw stones, firebombs, and fireworks, and block roads, and against demonstrations that call for our destruction."
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