Fourth attack on Israelis in uptick in violence

Jerusalem: A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier today in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron before he was shot dead, the army said, in the fourth attack on Israelis in less than 24 hours. 

    A military statement said the attacker drew a knife during a routine security check in Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighbourhood, wounding the soldier.  

   "In response to the immediate threat, forces at the scene shot the assailant, resulting in his death," the statement said.   

 Yesterday, three alleged assailants were killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis, two in and around occupied Hebron and one in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

    Another man was killed on Thursday, also in Hebron, after allegedly trying to evade arrest by the Israeli military.     Since October, 228 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, one Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed in ongoing violence, according to an AFP count.  

   Israeli forces say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead during protests and clashes.

    Israel has occupied the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War.     In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian medical official said Friday that Israeli troops at the border fence east of Gaza City shot and slightly wounded three Palestinian youths.     An army spokeswoman said they had been rioting.     The uptick in violence was a reminder of persistent tensions that continue to alarm the international community and came as UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned the two-state solution was "further than ever" from becoming reality.

    Previously there had not been an attack in three weeks.     International powers have criticised Israel's continued settlement expansion in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, with more than 500,000 Israelis now living in communities the international community considers illegal, as well as incitement to violence by Palestinian leaders.

    "Despite warnings by the international community and the region, leaders on both sides have failed to take the difficult steps needed for peace," Ban said on Friday.

    "Let me be absolutely clear: settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end," he added.

    Ban also hailed former Israeli president Shimon Peres, the last of Israel's founding fathers who suffered a major stroke this week.