Al-Khalil (Ma’an) — A Palestinian man was shot dead after stabbing an Israeli soldier at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern West Bank city of Al-Khalil.
The mosque’s director Munther Abu al-Failat told Ma’an he had been told by witnesses that the soldier was stabbed about three times before he shot back at the Palestinian. Early reports in Israeli and Palestinian media named the Palestinian as Assad al-Salayma, although local sources told Ma’an the man, believed to be in his 20s, had not yet been identified. AFP reported that Israeli soldiers had been preventing Palestinians from accessing the mosque when the incident took place. Both the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian were moved from the mosque by ambulance, although the Palestinian was confirmed dead before he arrived at the hospital.
Israeli police said that the Israeli soldier received stab wounds in his head and chest, and described his condition as moderate. They said he is now in a Jerusalem hospital. The incident comes less than a week after Israeli settlers raised the Israeli flag over the roof of the mosque in a bid to provoke local Palestinians. The Ibrahimi Mosque, which is believed to be the burial place of the prophet Abraham, is of religious significance to both Muslims and Jews, and has historically been a flashpoint between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly after a Brooklyn-born Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994. Around 700 settlers live in 80 homes in the city center of Al-Khalil, surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians.
The settlements — illegal under international law — are protected by the Israeli army in the tightly controlled city, where many streets are off limits to Palestinians. Saturday’s incident comes a day after a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed in East Jerusalem when he allegedly ran towards Israeli police officers “wielding” a knife.
There have been a spate of attacks on Israeli military and civilians in recent months, largely in the wake of Israeli activities across the occupied Palestinian Territories, including last summer’s offensive on Gaza which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead. In the six months to the end of February, the UN reported that 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and settlers across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while 10 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks. Thousands of Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in the same period.