JERUSALEM—Widespread riots continued Wednesday in the West Bank and East Jerusalem despite calls from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to his security forces to calm the situation.
Attacks also spread to Israel proper. A Palestinian snatched a rifle from a soldier on a bus in the southern town of Kiryat Gat after stabbing and lightly wounding him. The assailant ran into an apartment building where he was cornered by police who shot and killed him.
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In the central Israeli town of Petakh Tikvah a Palestinian from the West Bank stabbed and lightly wounded a man waiting at a bus stop. Passersby captured the assailant and held him till police arrived.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported more than 90 Palestinian casualties Wednesday in confrontations with Israel security forces throughout the West Bank. The rioters threw rocks and firebombs at passing Israeli cars and at the soldiers. Injuries came from rubber bullets, tear gas, and in several cases from live fire. Israeli security forces have been authorized to use a low-velocity rifle in some cases to bring down riot ringleaders.
Israel is also using special forces—young soldiers dressed as Arabs who infiltrate large groups of rioters and, after identifying ringleaders, seize them. Israel Television showed Wednesday a group of such soldiers in disguise suddenly leaping on a number of rioters while similarly clad soldiers with drawn pistols led the captives out to the nearby police lines.
Israeli media commentators note that thus far the rioting has been confined almost exclusively to unarmed youths. Neither guns nor explosives have been used, except in a drive-by shooting of an Israeli couple on the West Bank last week, although rocks, firebombs and, occasionally, knives have been used.
Police in a Jewish neighborhood grew suspicious today of a 15-year-old Arab boy who seemed to be lingering. When they approached him, he pulled a knife on them. He was disarmed and taken into custody.
A group of Palestinians attempted to drag a woman resident of a settlement from her car when she was caught in a traffic jam. She was moderately injured but managed to drive off.
An Israeli man in Jerusalem’s Old City was stabbed in the back in the Muslim Quarter Wednesday by an 18-year-old Palestinian woman who had sent a Facebook message to her mother saying she was going to find martyrdom. The Israeli was armed. He turned around and shot her. They were both taken to hospital; she is in critical condition, he has light injuries.
Security officials called on Israelis who are licensed gun holders to take their weapons with them during the current turmoil.
The absence thus far of gunfire by rioters is seen as clear evidence that organized militant groups on the West Bank, who are known to be armed, have thus far stayed out of the picture.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a scheduled trip to Berlin this week because of the security situation. Although he warned Palestinians of stern measures if rioting continues, his sharpest remarks have been directed at his principal supporters—the Israeli settlement movement and right-wing politicians who have been criticizing him for not "unshackling the army" and for not authorizing large scale settlement expansion as a defiant response to the riots.
Netanyahu has referred to these calls as "cheap" and accused his opponents of trying to take advantage of the situation to make political profit. After a meeting with him Tuesday, settler leaders quoted Netanyahu as saying that the American administration has warned him that if he authorizes settlement expansion Washington might not exercise its veto in the Security Council when it votes on a French-sponsored resolution to declare West Bank settlements illegal. The Prime Minister’s office subsequently issued a statement saying it was "unaware of any American threats."