MOHAMMED ABED / AFP / Getty Images

Pregnant woman, child killed in Gaza amid rising wave of violence

Human rights organizations say Israeli use of force has amounted to 'extrajudicial killings'

An Israeli airstrike killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her 2-year-old daughter in Gaza Sunday, a Gaza health official said, as more violence broke out in the occupied West Bank and Israel.

The Israeli military said it carried out airstrikes in Gaza targeting weapons manufacturing facilities owned by Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the territory, after renewed rocket fire toward Israel. Ashraf al-Kidra, a Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said a home in southern Gaza was struck, killing 30-year-old Noor Hassan and her 2-year-old daughter. Kidra said four others were wounded, including Hassan's husband and son.

In a separate incident, Israeli police said a 31-year-old Palestinian woman at a West Bank checkpoint set off a gas canister in her vehicle that injured her and an Israeli police officer. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the police officer noticed the woman driving suspiciously and motioned her to stop. She then proclaimed "God is great" before the blast, Rosenfeld said. 

The attack appeared to mark the first use of explosives in the current round of mounting violence that follows a series of stabbing and shooting attacks.

Also on Sunday, a Palestinian hospital director said a 13-year-old Palestinian had been killed during a clash with Israeli forces in the West Bank. Ramallah Government Hospital director Ahmed Bitawi says Ahmad Sharaka was shot dead by three live bullets to the head, neck and chest. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Two Israelis were stabbed near the city of Hadera, and medics say one is in serious condition, Israeli police said. They added that the assailant is apparently Arab and has been detained.

Police are on high alert in all major cities across Israel, and an Israeli ambulance drove through central Jerusalem Sunday night and announced an emergency blood drive over a loudspeaker.

In recent weeks there has been a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks as well as clashes in the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

The rising wave of violence began weeks ago in Jerusalem and has since spread across Israel, while violent protests have erupted in the West Bank and along the Gaza border – where nine Palestinians, including two children, were killed in clashes over the weekend. The Gaza border has been mostly calm since Israel’s 51-day offensive in the Gaza Strip that began in July 2014.

‘Wave of terror’

Addressing his Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was battling a "wave of terror" fueled by "systematic, untrue incitement" by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Islamic Movement in Israel. He said he would be holding consultations to discuss sanctions against the Islamic Movement, which runs education and religious services for Arab citizens of Israel.

Netanyahu says that along with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic Movement was responsible for spreading lies about Israel's supposed intentions regarding a sensitive Jerusalem holy site that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Netanyahu also singled out an Arab lawmaker, Hanin Zoabi, who the premier said called on hundreds of thousands of worshippers to ascend to the site to prevent an "Israeli plot of bloodletting of East Jerusalem residents."

Netanyahu says that amounts to clear incitement to violence and has asked the attorney general to open a criminal investigation on Zoabi.

Israel's Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said he is considering revoking the citizenship of Israeli Arabs who have been involved in attacks and taking away residency rights from those in east Jerusalem. Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967, and most Palestinian residents there hold residency rights, but not citizenship.

Recent days have seen a series of attacks by young Palestinians wielding household items like kitchen knives, screwdrivers and even a vegetable peeler. The youths had no known links to armed groups and have seemingly targeted Israeli soldiers and civilians at random, complicating efforts to predict or prevent the attacks.

The violence, including an apparent revenge attack in which an Israeli stabbed and wounded four Arabs on Friday, has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising. There have also been multiple protests inside Israel from the country's own Arab population, with masked demonstrators clashing with police forces.

Since the latest wave of unrest began this month, eight Palestinians have been killed while carrying out attacks and 13 have been killed in protests and clashes in the West Bank and Gaza. The Red Crescent medical service says over 500 Palestinians have been wounded in violent protests in the West Bank, including about 100 from live fire.

At the start of the month, Palestinians shot dead two Israeli settlers in front of their children in the West Bank. In a separate incident, a Palestinian wielding a knife killed two Israeli men and wounded a mother and toddler in Jerusalem before being shot dead. An Israeli motorist was previously killed when his car was pelted with stones on the eve of the Jewish New Year.    

‘Extrajudicial killings’

Israel's government is facing serious questions over its use of force in the latest outbreak of violence with protesters after a number of videos appeared online showing soldiers shooting at Palestinians.

Amnesty International told Al Jazeera on Sunday that some of the recorded incidents amounted to "extrajudicial killings," while Human Rights Watch (HRW) was "strongly concerned" by Israel's "indiscriminate and even deliberate" use of fire on demonstrators.

"These are extrajudicial killings against unarmed civilians," Mariam Farah, the spokesperson for Amnesty International in Israel, said.

On Friday, a video emerged showing a number of Israeli soldiers surrounding a young Palestinian woman allegedly holding a knife before they shot her with live bullets multiple times. Israa Ayed, 29, was critically injured.

Human Rights Watch told Al Jazeera the sheer number of cases of injuries among the Palestinians "raises concerns that Israeli forces are violating international law."

The U.S.-based organization said one of its staff members was injured by Israeli fire on Tuesday while she was observing a demonstration near a checkpoint outside Ramallah.

"The demonstration at that time was peaceful. There was no apparent threat to Israeli soldiers or anybody else frankly," Sari Bashi, the Israel-Palestine Director of HRW, told Al Jazeera.

"We have very strong concerns about excessive use of force and very strong concerns about the indiscriminate and even deliberate fire on crowds of demonstrators," she said.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press    

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