Fresh clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants rocked the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday as a Palestinian was killed after stabbing an Israeli police officer, adding to a surging death toll.
Israeli troops launched a fourth day of military operations around Jenin after an assailant from the flashpoint district last week shot and killed three people in a Tel Aviv bar in the latest of a spate of attacks that have stunned the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — who warned in response that there would “not be limits for this war” — vowed during a visit to the Tel Aviv shooting scene overnight: “We will not let our enemy stop our lives.
“We will fight where they are located, in their bases, at their source — and, please God, we will win.”
In Tuesday’s battles, which raged for a fourth day, Israeli soldiers “fired live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
The Israeli army said its soldiers fired “live ammunition toward suspects who hurled explosive devices at them as well as toward armed suspects in the area”, and arrested 20 Palestinians.
A makeshift barricade of car tyres blocked a road to the Jenin refugee camp, where a wall poster hailed the Tel Aviv shooter, Raad Hazem, 28, who was killed after a massive all-night manhunt last Friday.
“Here the (armed Palestinian) factions are united against the common enemy,” said Ismael, a young labourer from Jenin camp, labelling the Tel Aviv attack “heroic”.
“What happened in Tel Aviv means a lot to the camp. The more operations Israeli launches here, the more resistance it will face,” he told AFP.
The latest violence to rock Israel came in the Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, where police said an officer was checking a Palestinian man in his 40s who then “pulled out a knife and attacked the officer”.
The policeman “fired and neutralised the suspect, whose death was declared on site”, police said, adding that the officer was hospitalised with light wounds from a kitchen knife.
Police said the man was from Hebron — a powder keg where around 1,000 Jewish settlers live under heavy military protection among 200,000 Palestinians.
Palestinian youth have also clashed elsewhere with Israeli security forces, including in Ramallah, where they threw rocks and were met with tear gas.
The rise in violence comes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and days before the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter.
Last year during Ramadan, tensions in Jerusalem flared into 11 days of war between Israel and the Hamas militant group ruling the Gaza Strip.
‘Cycle of violence’
Israeli troops and police have stepped up operations over the past three weeks in which four shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks have left 14 people dead.
Over the same period, Israeli forces have killed 15 Palestinians, including assailants, according to an AFP tally.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited an area Tuesday where a barrier that runs roughly along the West Bank border is to be extended by 40 kilometres (25 miles) in coming months under a plan approved Sunday.
Israel started building the controversial, more than 500-kilometre barrier, part wall and part fence, 20 years ago after a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks.
The army said that, following the recent attacks in Israel, it would reinforce the barrier with additional troops.
Palestinians say the barrier’s construction grabbed nearly 10 percent of the West Bank, and the International Court of Justice ruled it illegal.
Militant group Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, hailed the Palestinian response to Israel’s military incursions in Jenin and other cities.
“We salute our people who stand like an unyielding barricade in the face of the Zionist enemy’s terrorism,” it said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres followed “with deep concern the escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel,” said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“He is appalled by the increasingly high number of casualties, including women and children,” Dujarric added.
Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh charged that Israel’s actions “will lead to a dangerous and uncontrollable escalation” and cause a new “cycle of violence”.