October 4, 2015
JERUSALEM (AP) — In an unprecedented measure, Israeli police barred Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday in response to stabbing attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded three others, as Israel's prime minister vowed a "harsh offensive" to counter rising violence.
Tensions have flared in recent weeks over an Old City holy site sacred to Muslims and Jews, a series of so-called "lone wolf" attacks on Israelis and a security clampdown, which on Sunday saw Israeli troops launch a bloody arrest raid in the West Bank.
The latest spike in violence comes at a time when many Palestinians no longer believe statehood through negotiations with Israel is possible. Israeli commentators raised the possibility of a third uprising, though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has so far prevented major outbreaks of violence despite his growing friction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In response to the recent violence, Israeli police said they would prevent Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from entering the Old City for two days during a Jewish holiday. Palestinians who live, work and study within the Old City, as well as Israelis and tourists, will be allowed in.
"This is a drastic measure that's being taken in order to make sure there are no further attacks during the Jewish festival where you can see thousands of people visiting the Old City," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Israel captured the Old City and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, and later annexed the areas. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state.
Some 300,000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem, making up about a third of the city's population. They live in the predominantly Arab eastern district and have residency status in the city, but do not hold Israeli citizenship.
They are usually free to enter the Old City in east Jerusalem, where major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites are located. Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann said it is the first time since Israel captured the Old City in 1967 that it has prevented Jerusalem's Palestinians from entering.
In the latest attack, Israeli police say a Palestinian teenager stabbed and moderately wounded a 15-year-old Israeli early Sunday morning in Jerusalem before being shot dead by Israeli police.