JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian assailant stabbed and wounded four Israelis in the southern town of Kiryat Gat on Saturday, police said, shortly after the United States announced its top diplomat would travel to the region to try to ease tensions.
A senior U.S. official in Washington said Secretary of State John Kerry will meet next week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to stop ongoing violence, although he insisted it was not a renewed effort to broker a peace accord.
One Israeli suffered serious wounds and three others, including a 13-year-old girl, were in moderate condition, a hospital official said.
The Palestinian suspect, from a village near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, was apprehended in the garden of a nearby house after security forces mounted a search. A police spokeswoman said he was found with a blood-stained knife and bloodied hands.
An Israeli Bedouin Arab, whom some local residents mistook for the assailant, was lightly injured after being set upon briefly. He was also taken to hospital for treatment, police said. It underlined increased Jewish-Arab tensions as a result of the recent attacks in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Eighteen Israelis and others have died, along with 80 Palestinians, in a wave of violence over the past seven weeks.
Palestinian allegations that Israel was trying to alter the religious status quo at a Jerusalem holy site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque stands, and to Jews as Temple Mount, have partly fueled the violence.
Non-Muslim prayer is banned around al-Aqsa and Israel has said it will not change that. But more visits in recent years by Jewish religious activists and ultra-nationalist Israeli politicians to the complex, where two biblical temples once stood, have done little to convince the Palestinians.
On Thursday, five people - three Israelis, a Palestinian and an American - were killed in two attacks on one of the bloodiest days during the recent heightened tensions.
The body of the American, Jewish seminary student Ezra Schwartz, 18, from Sharon, Massachusetts, was flown for burial in the United States.
Earlier on Saturday, Israeli security forces shut down a local Palestinian radio station in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron, al-Khalil Radio, the station’s manager and the Israeli army said.
A statement issued by the military said the station was shut down and broadcast equipment was confiscated because it had “repeatedly broadcast content which promotes and encourages terror and acts of violence against Israeli civilians and security forces.”
But local Palestinian journalists’ union representative Jihad Qawasmeh accused Israel of acting unlawfully, saying it had “breached international norms and had raided all the organizations that international laws forbid to raid.”
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Matthew Lewis