JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday there was no quick fix for a spate of Palestinian “lone-wolf” attacks that the Jewish state has faced in recent days.
Four people, including an Israeli soldier, were stabbed and wounded near a military headquarters in Tel Aviv as a rash of such Palestinian attacks spread to Israel’s commercial capital.
The assailant was shot and killed by another soldier as he fled, a police spokeswoman said.
“We are in the midst of a wave of terror ... There is no magic solution and the actions (we are taking) will not yield instant results, but with methodical determination we will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it,” Netanyahu said in a prime time news conference, with top security officials by his side.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, who also spoke, said there was no need for a major offensive in the occupied West Bank and that pinpoint operations to arrest militants would suffice in confronting what he described as “a complex challenge”.
Four Israelis have been killed in stabbings in Jerusalem and a drive-by shooting in the occupied West Bank in the past week. Three Palestinians have been shot dead and scores injured in clashes with security services, triggering fears of escalation.
The violence has erupted because Palestinians fear visits by Jewish groups, including lawmakers, to the Jerusalem plaza revered in Judaism as the site of two destroyed biblical temples, are eroding Muslim religious control of al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
In a bid to lower tensions, Netanyahu’s office said he had banned Israeli cabinet ministers and legislators from visiting the sensitive religious site.
Fearing violence after prayers on Friday, Israeli police said only men over the age of 50 and women of all ages would be permitted to enter the al-Aqsa complex, a step that has been taken often in the past during periods of high tension.
While saying he was not in favor of violence and wanted to avoid confrontation with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised those “defending al-Aqsa”.
”We believe in peace and in peaceful people resistance ...
We support our brothers who are protecting al-Aqsa who are suffering so much in order to protect it. We say to the Israeli government: stay away from our Muslim and Christian sites,” Abbas said.
In other attacks on Thursday, shortly after the incident in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a man in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, an ambulance service official said.
Hours earlier, a Jewish seminary student was wounded in a Palestinian knife attack on a main road in Jerusalem. Police said the assailant was arrested at the scene.
And in the northern Israeli town of Afula, two people, including one soldier were stabbed and wounded by a Palestinian who was apprehended by passers-by, police said.
A Palestinian was declared dead in hospital in Ramallah after a clash with Israeli troops in the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem and a number of other protesters were wounded, a Palestinian hospital source said.
The attacks have alarmed authorities and unsettled Israelis, with Jerusalem’s mayor and the deputy defense minister urging people with gun licenses to carry their weapons.
At least two store owners who sell personal protection devices and weapons told Israeli media that there had been a sharp increase in demand for hand guns and pepper spray.
Netanyahu praised citizens’ actions in confronting the attacks, saying that “Israelis are acting to neutralize and eliminate the terrorists while in the act and this requires extraordinary bravery and initiative.”
Israeli government officials have accused Palestinian leaders of playing on Muslim concerns over al-Aqsa to incite Palestinians to violence, attacks that appeared to fall short of an organized uprising, in the absence of peace talks that collapsed in 2014.
But Israeli military officials have noted that security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, is continuing.
Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Ari Rabinovitch, Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Editing by Richard Balmforth