Israeli soldier, three Palestinian attackers killed in Israel ahead of Kerry visit
JERUSALEM - An Israeli soldier and three Palestinian alleged attackers were killed in another day of violence Monday, on the eve of US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit in a bid to ease the bloodshed.
One soldier was stabbed to death while another was seriously wounded in the same attack at a petrol station on the edge of the occupied West Bank.
"A Palestinian murdered an Israeli and wounded another in an attack at a gas station on route 443," the Israeli army said, referring to a main road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that passes in part though the West Bank.
The assailant was shot dead at the scene.
Later, a military spokeswoman revealed that one of the soldiers, a man named as 18-year-old Ziv Mizrahi, had died while the other, a female officer, had been wounded and evacuated for medical treatment.
"The victim that died was a soldier and the injured was an officer," she told AFP.
The stabbings were the latest in a wave of violence since October 1 that has left 92 Palestinians dead, including one Arab Israeli, as well as 17 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.
More than half of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others were shot during demonstrations and clashes with Israeli security forces, including along the Gaza border.
Kerry is due to arrive Tuesday morning to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas aimed at defusing the violence.
Earlier on Monday one teenage girl was killed and another seriously injured when they attacked an elderly man in Jerusalem, police said, the first stabbing in the city for nearly two weeks.
Security camera footage appeared to show the girls - apparently cousins aged 14 and 16 - in school uniform chasing a man with scissors before being shot by a member of the security forces.
He then appears to shoot one of them again while she was already collapsed on the ground.
The man they targeted was identified as a 70-year-old Palestinian, possibly confused for an Israeli Jew, who suffered light injuries.
One of the girls' brothers had died two years ago during clashes with Israeli security forces, Palestinian security sources said.
In another attack, a Palestinian was shot dead when trying to stab an Israeli soldier near Huwara to the south of Nablus.
The Palestinian health ministry identified the assailant as 16-year-old Khalil Hashash.
An 18-year-old Palestinian woman, identified by medical sources as Samah Abdullah, was shot and severely wounded in the same attack, apparently by accident.
The stabbings, shootings and car rammings have overwhelmingly been carried out by so-called "lone wolf" attackers, making it harder for Israel to predict where and when the next assault will come.
Attacks initially focused in and around Jerusalem in early October before shifting to the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron. In recent days, however, they have flared again in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has come under pressure to tighten security and on Monday he announced stricter controls on Palestinian vehicles and an increase in so-called "bypass roads," which create separate routes for Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
During a visit to a West Bank settlement that has been the scene of numerous attacks, he also said work permits would be withdrawn from the families of alleged attackers and said there would be "no limits" on the powers of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
Israel has already adopted the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of attackers, which it says acts as a deterrent.
On Monday evening, the Israeli army launched an air raid on the Gaza Strip after the Islamist movement Hamas fired a rocket into southern Israel, sources from both sides said, adding that no one was hurt.
Against this backdrop, Kerry's visit is aimed at defusing the current conflict, which some feared could spark a third Palestinian uprising, or intifada.
The top US diplomat has repeatedly called for both sides to take "concrete steps" to reduce tension, end provocative rhetoric and ensure access to Jerusalem holy sites, but his words have had little impact on the ground.
There is little optimism he will be able to convince the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to resume peace talks, which broke down more than 18 months ago.
"There's no agreement to be reached between the parties right now," one senior US official said.