Palestinian kills two Israelis, wounds child in Jerusalem attack

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Israeli soldiers hold a position in a street, east of the West Bank city of Nablus, on October 3, 2015, as they search for the suspected Palestinian killers of a Jewish settler couple (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
A Palestinian said to be an Islamist militant killed two Israeli men and injured a woman and a toddler in a knife and gun attack in Jerusalem, in a fresh escalation of violence.
 
The attack in the Old City came with Israeli security forces on alert after recent clashes at the city\’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the murder in the West Bank of a Jewish settler couple in front of their young children.
A two-year-old child was slightly injured in the leg and taken to hospital as a result of Saturday\’s attack, and a woman was in serious condition, rescue services said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it appeared the child had been shot.
The attacker reportedly took a gun from one of the male victims and fired at police when they responded after being alerted, before he was himself shot dead.
Police named him as Mohannad Shafiq Halani, aged 19, from a village near Ramallah in the West Bank.
Militant group Islamic Jihad said he was one of its members, but did not claim responsibility for the attack.
 
Media reports said three of the victims were members of the same ultra-Orthodox family on their way to pray at the Western Wall.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said his country was fighting "a battle against terrorism" and vowed to go after "the killers of innocent people".
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "losing control of Israel\’s security".
The United States condemned the attack, with State Department spokesman John Kirby saying Washington was "very concerned about mounting tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem".
Palestinian militant group Hamas meanwhile praised the attack as "a heroic act of resistance".
 
In a separate incident on Saturday, a Palestinian man stabbed a passerby in west Jerusalem before being shot dead by police while he was fleeing the scene.
 
Israeli security forces have been on high alert over recent Jewish and Muslim holidays, particularly with Jews visiting the sensitive Al-Aqsa compound, which they call the Temple Mount.
The eight-day Jewish Sukkot holiday began last Sunday and has continued all week.
 
Thursday night\’s murder of a Jewish settler couple in the West Bank in front of their four children further boosted tensions.
Apprehensive of the potential for violence between settlers and Palestinians, the army said after the murder of the couple it was deploying "four battalions in order to prevent an escalation of violence in the area adjacent to the location of the attack".
Palestinian police and medical sources said 10 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire in the West Bank earlier Saturday during a raid by troops hunting the murderers of the couple.
Palestinians protesting against the raid in the territory\’s main northern city of Nablus hurled stones at soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition, the sources said.
The Israeli military said Saturday that arrests had been made, without providing details.
 
Thursday night\’s murders came just hours after Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly in New York, where he called for a resumption of direct peace talks with the Palestinians.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas addressed the UN a day earlier and declared he was no longer bound by previous pacts with Israel, accusing the Israeli government of violating them.
Recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound have seen young Palestinian rioters throw stones and firebombs while barricading themselves inside the mosque itself as police fired tear gas and stun grenades.
Police said they were forced to raid the compound to stop rioters from disrupting visits by non-Muslims.
Muslims fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, located in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. Jews are allowed to visit the site, but not pray to avoid provoking tensions.
Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is committed to the status quo there.
The compound is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred in Judaism. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.
SOURCE: AFP

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