Israeli forces kill 7 Palestinians amid protests, clashes

Deaths come on a day of sporadic violence which saw a number of stabbings

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At least six Palestinian protesters were killed and hundreds injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers in Gaza on Friday as tensions mounted following individual attacks and violent confrontations after days of unrest. In a separate incident — one of a number of sporadic stabbing attacks — a Palestinian was shot dead by an Israeli police officer.

The Israeli military said it opened fire on a crowd of 200 people in Gaza after rocks were thrown at soldiers during protests. Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters have also continued throughout the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

Another Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli forces after allegedly stabbing an Israeli police officer and trying to grab his gun in the occupied West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, local media reported. The officer was lightly injured, police said.

Earlier in the day, a Palestinian used a vegetable peeler to stab and injure an Israeli in Jerusalem before being arrested, according to authorities.

In a separate incident, an Israeli stabbed four Palestinians in the southern Israeli city of Dimona.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “strongly condemned the harming of innocent Arabs.” He said whoever deploys violence will be brought to justice, but he also described the recent wave of stabbings by Palestinians as a “terrorist wave.”

Friday's violence comes as clashes have increased in frequency since Israeli forces began to crack down on Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem last month. 

“It is very dangerous here,” Ezz Zanoun, a Gaza-based photographer who was at Friday’s protest, told Al Jazeera. “They always shoot at the border, but it's much worse today than usual.”

“At first they started shooting with rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades, then they fired live ammunition at us,” he said. “Dozens have been injured, but the number is growing because the clashes are still going on.” 

During a speech in Gaza City on Friday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians to intensify clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 

“We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada. … It is the only path that will lead to liberation,” Haniyeh said.

The protests followed the continuation of a cycle of sporadic attacks. On Friday, a Palestinian woman allegedly tried to stab an Israeli security guard at a bus station in Afula, in northern Israel, police said. A video of the incident apparently shows Israeli forces shooting and injuring the Palestinian woman in close range. 

In Jerusalem, Israeli security forces braced themselves for more unrest, barring young Palestinian men from a sacred Jerusalem Old City site in an attempt to restore calm. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said men under the age of 45 are barred from the Al-Aqsa mosque compound while women of all ages can enter.

Days of protests and clashes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have seen Palestinian youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces firing rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

In the past week, at least four Israelis and, more than 12 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing violence. 

The attacks were initially confined to East Jerusalem, site of the sacred compound, and the West Bank — both territories annexed from Palestinians by Israel in the 1967 war and claimed by Palestinians for their future state. But this past week the violence has spread to Tel Aviv, Afula and other Israeli cities.

The recent surge in violence was initially sparked by increased restrictions on Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinians throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails in protest. That 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 Palestinians and destroying their property, and a spate of back and forth stabbings have ensued.

According to the Red Crescent medical service, more than 500 Palestinians have been injured in West Bank protests since the weekend, including about 100 from live fire.

Israel has significantly beefed up security in response to the violence in Jerusalem, and on Thursday police set up metal detectors at the entrance to the Old City.

The hilltop compound is a frequent flashpoint and its fate is a core issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, site of the two biblical Jewish temples. Muslims revere it as the Noble Sanctuary, where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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