Jerusalem suffered its bloodiest day yet Tuesday in a wave of unrest, with at least three Israelis killed as Palestinian attackers shot at a bus and drove a car into pedestrians.
The bus attack was the first assault with a gun in Jerusalem in the two-week-old upsurge of Palestinian violence.
The rising tide of unrest, which has seen a series of stabbing attacks and violent protests, has raised fears of a full-scale third Palestinian uprising, or intifada.
A Palestinian was also killed on Tuesday in clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
In the first and second intifadas, in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, hundreds of people were killed in near daily Israel-Palestinian violence.
Tuesday’s attack on an east Jerusalem bus saw one Palestinian with a pistol and another with two knives assault some 15 people, police said.
Two Israelis including a 60-year-old were killed, and around 10 were wounded, medics and police said.
One attacker was shot dead and the other was wounded.
“I was in my house and I heard between 20 and 30 shots between the police and the terrorists,” one resident of the area said, declining to give his name.
Another said the incident lasted for nearly 10 minutes.
In another attack at around the same time in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish area of the city, a Palestinian rammed a car into people at a bus stop and jumped out with a knife.
At least one person was killed and eight wounded, medics said. The attacker was shot and later died, police said.
It was unclear if the attacks were coordinated. All three attackers were from the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber, police said.
A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, called the attacks “heroic” and said the “intifada is intensifying”.
– ‘Day of rage’ –
The Jerusalem attacks came after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a passer-by north of Tel Aviv before being overcome by civilians.
Police described the attacker as a 22-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem and said he was taken to hospital with serious injuries after residents beat him.
After initially breaking out with attacks and violent protests in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, unrest has also spread to Gaza, with clashes along the border in recent days leaving nine Palestinians dead from Israeli fire.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday Israel would use “all means” available to end Palestinian violence and that new security measures were planned.
Speaking before parliament, he warned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that he would hold him responsible if incitement led to a further deterioration after nearly two weeks of violence.
Palestinians meanwhile called for a “day of rage” for Tuesday and Arab Israelis called a general strike to support them.
Violent protests took place in parts of both Gaza and the West Bank, including in Bethlehem and at a checkpoint near Ramallah where at least one Palestinian was wounded by Israeli fire.
A 28-year-old Palestinian was killed in Bethlehem, and Palestinian medics reported at least 15 Palestinians wounded by Israeli fire Tuesday.
Funerals of Palestinians killed in unrest or while allegedly carrying out attacks — as well as online videos of shootings — have fed anger.
– ‘Knife terror’ –
Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erakat said Tuesday new petitions would be sent to the International Criminal Court against Israel, accusing it of “extrajudicial executions”.
More than 20 stabbing attacks have occurred in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank since October 3.
There has been one revenge attack, with a Jew stabbing and wounding two Arab Israelis and two Palestinians in the southern Israeli city of Dimona last week.
Seven Israelis have been killed along with around 30 Palestinians, including alleged attackers.
Netanyahu vowed Monday that Israel would not bow to “knife terror”, but the unrest has shown little sign of abating.
The knife attackers have usually been young Palestinians who appear to be acting on their own.
Frustrated Palestinian youths have defied Abbas and an Israeli crackdown by staging violent protests in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Tuesday saw further unrest along the Israel-Gaza border when about a thousand protesters threw stones and firebombs at a checkpoint.
Israel’s army also said “shots were fired at a military vehicle along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. Forces were at the scene following a breach of the security fence by dozens of rioters earlier today.”
The violence began on October 1, when an alleged Hamas cell shot dead a Jewish settler couple in the West Bank in front of their children.
The murders followed repeated clashes at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in September between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths.