JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli army shot dead two Palestinians on Friday, one an elderly woman accused of trying to run over soldiers in the occupied West Bank and the other a man who took part in a violent Gaza Strip protest, hospital officials said.
Separately, three Israelis were wounded in the West Bank, two of them shot near the Cave of the Patriarchs, a shrine holy to Muslims and Jews in the city of Hebron, and a third stabbed outside the Jewish settlement of Beit El, the military said.
Searches are underway for their assailants, it added.
The incidents were the latest in a five-week-old campaign of Palestinian street attacks, fueled in part by Muslim agitation at stepped-up Jewish visits to a contested Jerusalem holy site, as well as by long-deadlocked peacemaking with Israel.
Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings, shootings or other attacks during the period. Israeli forces have shot dead at least 71 Palestinians, including 42 who Israel says were carrying out or about to carry out attacks. Many were teenagers.
Near Hebron, a 72-year-old Palestinian woman tried to ram her car into a group of Israeli soldiers, a military spokeswoman said. They opened fire and wounded the woman, who was taken to an Israeli hospital. The hospital said she died en route.
In Gaza, rock-throwing protesters gathered near the border fence with Israel and were fired on by troops on the other side. Medics said a Palestinian was killed. The Israeli army said it opened fire at “instigators” among the Palestinians after they tried to breach the fence and ignored warning shots.
Another Palestinian, from the minority Christian community, was critically hurt by Israeli army fire during a violent protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, medics said.
The violence has been the worst since the 2014 Gaza war, with Israeli forces hard-put to anticipate often spontaneous attacks by young Palestinians unaffiliated to militant groups.
Though peace talks have been stalled since mid-2014, the U.S.-backed Palestinian administration in the West Bank has been quietly cooperating on security with Israel, while publicly criticizing the Israeli crackdowns as heavy-handed.
“My people, country are victims of an unjust aggression which includes people and places and does not spare old people or children,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told the UNESCO General Assembly in Paris.
Israel has accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of stoking the flames with false allegations that it is eroding a decades-old ban on non-Muslim prayer at Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque compound, which has seen increased visits by Jews who revere the site as the vestige of their two biblical temples.
“We are taking action against (Palestinian) incitement,” Interior Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel’s Army Radio, alluding to steps such as the shuttering of a Palestinian radio station in Hebron and the arrests of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs over social media posts deemed to be promoting violence.
“I cannot say that there are signs of total calm, but I hope that it will be possible to control the situation,” Shalom said.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Gareth Jones