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Deaths reported in Israel, Palestinian territories amid spiraling violence

At least two Palestinians and three Israelis killed on Tuesday as tensions remain high

At least two Palestinians and three Israelis were killed Tuesday as a recent surge in violence continues to sweep through Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Moataz Zawahra, 27, from Dheisheh refugee camp, was the 30th Palestinian to be killed in the last two weeks of heightened violence, Palestinian health officials said. 

An Israeli soldier reportedly shot Zawahra in the chest during protests and clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Clashes with Israeli forces on Tuesday injured 400 Palestinians, 31 by live fire, across Gaza and the West Bank — including the cities Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, according to local Ma’an News Agency.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, two Palestinians allegedly shot and stabbed passengers on a bus in Jerusalem, resulting in the deaths of two Israelis, police said. At least five others were injured. One of the Palestinian suspects was killed at the scene, an ambulance service spokesman said, while the other was admitted to hospital with injuries.

Earlier the same day, a Palestinian man allegedly drove his car into a bus stop in the center of Jerusalem, then got out and began stabbing pedestrians, killing at least one and wounding several others, police said.

The attacker was "neutralized," Israeli police officers said, without giving details.

In other developments, Israeli police said an Israeli Jewish man stabbed another Israeli Jew in northern Israel in a suspected failed attack against Palestinians. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld initially called Tuesday's stabbing near the IKEA store in Kiryat Ata a criminally motivated attack. Police later said they concluded the man was hoping to stab an Arab.

The recent surge in violence was initially sparked by increased restrictions on Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a heavy-handed response by Israeli authorities against protesters. The violence spread after two attacks said to be perpetrated by Palestinians killed two Israelis in East Jerusalem and two Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Israeli settlers rioted after those killings, assaulting Palestinian at random and destroying their property. A spate of protests, clashes and back and forth stabbings have ensued.

Palestinian protesters are calling for unrestricted access to worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Jews revere the site as the location of two ancient temples. Demonstrators also want Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and cease settlement building, both of which are illegal under international law.

The increased violence has stoked talk of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have appealed for calm, Israeli forces continue to use forceful measures against protesters and the violence shows no signs of abating.

Netanyahu on Tuesday called a meeting of his security cabinet, and said his government was working on a series of "aggressive steps" to quell Palestinian protests, which often entail youth throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces in the occupied territories.

Palestinian groups declared a Day of Rage on Tuesday across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Palestinians confined to Gaza responded to the call by staging protests near the Israeli border, where they threw stones toward Israeli military positions and burned tires.

The Israeli army said it was using "riot dispersal means" against the crowd. Palestinian medics said five of the protesters were wounded by Israeli gunfire, two of them seriously.

In solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories, the leaders of Israel's Palestinian community have also called for a commercial strike in their towns and villages. 

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday issued a statement calling for restraint among both Israelis and Palestinians.

"We continue to stress the importance of condemning violence and combating incitement," said John Kirby, State Department spokesman. "We remain deeply concerned about escalating tensions and urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions."

Neither side, however, appears to have made any headway in easing tensions.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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