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Palestinian man with 'press' logo on shirt shot dead in stabbing

Published 16/10/2015

There are heightened tensions in the West Bank
There are heightened tensions in the West Bank

A Palestinian man wearing a T-shirt with the word "press" in large letters stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before being shot dead by troops.

The stabbing, the latest in a month-long spate of attacks, occurred on the sidelines of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian stone-throwers after Friday prayers in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The attacker blended in with journalists standing close to a group of soldiers who were firing tear gas at the stone-throwers at the time.

At one point, shouts were heard, followed by several gunshots. Troops rushed to the scene of the stabbing, near a military jeep, and administered aid to the injured soldier who was eventually taken away by ambulance.

The attacker lay on the ground, clutching a knife in his right hand.

The incident heightened concerns among journalists about their safety. The Foreign Press Association for Israel and the Palestinian territories said it "marks a worrying development" that demands all media operate with greater caution.

"We utterly deplore this violation of press privilege and call on local Palestinian media organisations to immediately verify all media credentials," the FPA said in a statement.

In Nablus, another West Bank city, Palestinians firebombed a site revered by some Jews as the tomb of the biblical figure Joseph, an attack condemned as "irresponsible" by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Flames blackened exterior walls of the small stone structure, a scene of Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the past.

Confrontations also erupted in the biblical town of Bethlehem and the Israel-Gaza border.

In Gaza, hundreds approached a border crossing with Israel, throwing stones and drawing Israeli fire that killed one Palestinian and wounded two, health officials said.

In Bethlehem, dozens of Palestinians hurled stones and firebombs at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and live rounds.

In the past month, eight Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. During the same period, 34 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire - 15 labelled by Israel as attackers, and the others in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops.

In response to the stabbings, Israel has taken unprecedented measures, including setting up checkpoints in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem this week despite Israel's long-standing assertion that the city is united.

In one area, men passing through a checkpoint said they lined up and ordered by troops to lift their hands and shirts to show they were unarmed before being allowed to pass.

Israel also imposed restrictions on Muslim worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site in Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Men under 40 were barred from the shrine, and hundreds of young worshippers spread out prayer mats on streets leading to the Old City.

The Muslim-run shrine, also revered by Jews as the holiest site of their religion, has been at the root of recent tensions.

Palestinian and Muslim leaders have alleged Israel is attempting to change long-standing arrangements that bar Jews from praying on the hilltop compound, a claim denied by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, several senior members of Mr Netanyahu's coalition have called for Jewish prayer rights at the site, once home to biblical Jewish temples.

The widespread perception among Palestinians that Al-Aqsa is under threat from Israel has fomented tensions and violence.

Mr Abbas has tried to lower the temperature, telling his security commanders that armed attacks on Israelis counter Palestinian interests. However, he has also told his security forces not to stop Palestinian stone-throwers heading to confrontations with Israeli troops.

Mr Abbas condemned the Nablus arson as "irresponsible," ordered an investigation into who was behind it and said repairs would begin immediately, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Dore Gold, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official, said the site was targeted "just because it is a place in which Jews pray".

Lt Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said the attack violates freedom of worship and that the military will "bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice".

For centuries, the site has been identified with the biblical Joseph but some Palestinians say it was a sheikh's grave or used as a mosque. The tomb has become a popular prayer site in recent years among some sects of religious Jews.

The site is located in an area under Palestinian self-rule and visits by Jews are co-ordinated between Palestinian security forces and Israeli troops.

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