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Arab Areas of Jerusalem Blocked Off in Israeli Crackdown

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Palestinians watch a wall being built between Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

Palestinians watch a wall being built between Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

Palestinians in Jerusalem, more than a third of the city's population, have awoken to a new reality: Israeli troops are encircling Arab neighborhoods, blocking roads with concrete cubes the size of washing machines and ordering some of those leaving on foot to lift their shirts to show they are not carrying knives, according to the Associated Press.

The unprecedented clampdown is meant to halt a rash of stabbings of Israelis. Many of the attacks were carried out by residents of east Jerusalem, the sector captured and annexed by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Palestinians as a future capital.

Sunday, an Arab armed with a gun and a knife attacked Israelis at the main bus station in Beersheba Sunday, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding 10 other people before police shot him dead.

It was the bloodiest single incident in more than two weeks of Palestinian violence against Israelis, which has seen eight Israelis and 41 Palestinians killed.

U.S. efforts to Calm the Situation

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said attacks on innocent civilians just going about their own business are "outrageous and unjustified." But he has avoided directly blaming one side or the other for the recent eruption of violence.

Kerry plans to meet separately this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The attack followed a bloody day between Palestinian teenagers and Israeli police in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron and in Jerusalem. Police reported at least four knife-wielding Palestinians, including a 16-year-old girl, were killed in separate incidents. Authorities said several Israeli security personnel were wounded in the attacks.

Weeks of violence

Palestinian officials have linked the violence in part to increasing Jewish encroachment at the east Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as the al-Aqsa mosque and to Jews as the Temple Mount. ​

Strong Israeli denials of any plans to change the long-standing rules of who can and cannot worship at the holy site have done nothing to calm the Palestinian fury.

In one attack, Israeli police say a border guard manning the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank shot a knife-wielding Palestinian youth, first wounding the attacker and then killing him after the assailant tried for a second time to stab the guard. The death occurred as hundreds of Israeli and Arab activists gathered in Jerusalem Saturday evening for a peace rally.

Police say a 16-year-old was killed in the same area earlier Saturday after a bystander told police the youth was acting suspiciously and police asked him for identification. Authorities say two officers shot the suspect when he tried to stab them.

In Hebron, the Israeli military said a Palestinian was fatally shot while trying to stab an armed Israeli settler. In a second incident in Hebron, police said a Palestinian girl was killed while trying to stab a female Israeli soldier outside a checkpoint. A third Palestinian was shot by police in Hebron after stabbing and wounding a police officer after nightfall. Police did not say whether the attacker was killed.

A Palestinian protester drags a burning tyre during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron, Oct. 18, 2015.

A Palestinian protester drags a burning tyre during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron, Oct. 18, 2015.

Obama concerned about violence

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking Friday, called on regional leaders to “tamp down” on rhetoric that might feed “violence or anger or misunderstanding."

The president also said it is up to Israel and the Palestinians to decide whether to restart stalled U.S.-backed peace talks. “I think it's going to be up to the parties and we stand ready to assist, to see if they can restart a more constructive relationship.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week. The State Department said that meeting will probably take place in Germany, although details have not been finalized.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

UN Security Council meeting

Israeli and Palestinian officials traded blame for the escalating violence on Friday at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour used the meeting to call for international protection for Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, and complained of Israeli "atrocities."

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Dannon said Palestinian incitement, not Israel's decades-long military rule of Palestinians, was responsible for the outbreak of violence.

France is said to be preparing the draft of a Security Council statement that would appeal for calm and for maintaining the status quo at the Jerusalem holy site that Muslims call the al-Aqsa mosque and Jews call the Temple Mount.

A Palestinian holding Palestinian flags stands on a burning car belonging to Jewish settlers after it was set on fire by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus, Oct. 18, 2015.

A Palestinian holding Palestinian flags stands on a burning car belonging to Jewish settlers after it was set on fire by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus, Oct. 18, 2015.

Robert Berger contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Some material for this report came from AP, Reuters and AFP.

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