Palestinian Attacks Rise During Biden Visit to Israel

There has been a reported increase in violence by Palestinians during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM, March 9 (Reuters) – Two Palestinian assailants opened fire at cars in Jerusalem, wounding one man before police shot them dead on Wednesday, the force said, as violence surged during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Soon after in the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to stab them, the military said.

The attacks came a day after an American tourist was killed in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian who went on a stabbing spree on the beachfront while Biden met former Israeli President Shimon Peres blocks away.

On Twitter, Biden called it a “tragic attack … taking the life of an American” and said “there is no justification for such acts of terror”. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian authorities.

Since October, Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and two U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 179 Palestinians, 121 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

After several days in which the violence largely subsided, a series of attacks erupted after Biden arrived in Israel on Tuesday.

Israel’s national police chief said he saw no direct connection between Biden’s trip and the surge in attacks.

TALKS

Biden held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday and was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank later in the day.

U.S. officials said Biden would discuss with Netanyahu a new 10-year military aid package to Israel currently under negotiation, as well as the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. They warned against any expectations of a breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stalled since 2014, in Biden’s meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas.

The incident in Jerusalem on Wednesday began when gunfire ran out near a commuter bus, though no one was hurt and the vehicle was not hit, a police spokesman said.

Several minutes later, two Palestinians in a car, believed by police to have tried to attack the bus, opened fire near the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, the scene of multiple attacks over the past five months.

One man, who was not immediately identified, was critically wounded by the Palestinian gunfire and police shot and killed the two assailants, the spokesman said.

The U.S. State Department identified the American killed on Tuesday as Taylor Force, a 28-year-old graduate student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management who was on a trip to Israel organized by the school.

The past five months of bloodshed have been fuelled by various factors, including a dispute over Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to secure the Palestinians an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.

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