Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising to take a hard line against Palestinians who have unleashed a wave of attacks against Israelis, but he says he does not want to anger Israel's allies.
Netanyahu and his top security chiefs held a special news conference Thursday evening after another bloody day in which at least six Israelis were stabbed:
— Israeli troops shot and killed an Arab who had stabbed four Israelis with a screwdriver. An Israeli soldier was among the four people hurt in the attacks, which took place near a military compound in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
— A yeshiva student was stabbed by a 15-year-old Arab assailant near a light-rail station on a main road in East Jerusalem. Israeli medical and police officials said the victim was in serious condition, and that the alleged attacker had been arrested.
— A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli in the West Bank, where fresh clashes erupted Thursday between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
In all, the violence has left at least four Israelis and five Palestinians dead and prompted Netanyahu to cancel a trip to Germany that had been scheduled for this week.
'Wave of terror'
Netanyahu said Israelis were experiencing a "wave of terror of knives, firebombs, stones and live fire. Israelis are acting with bravery, courage, realism and determination to neutralize and kill the terrorists in the act."
He told reporters that the violence was not organized, but was caused by incitement from Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and a group called the Islamic Movement in Israel.
Far-right Israelis are demanding that Netanyahu do more to confront the Palestinians and step up Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.
But Netanyahu said that would only pull resources away from meeting the threat. He also said more settlements could alienate Israel's allies, whose support he badly needs at this time.
Jewish settlement in areas that could be part of a future Palestinian state is one of the major issues frustrating the Palestinians.
Among the steps Netanyahu announced Thursday was reimposition of a ban on Palestinian men 50 and younger from visiting the east Jerusalem holy site Muslims call the al-Aqsa Mosque and Jews call the Temple Mount. He also barred senior Israeli and Arab politicians from the site to avoid provoking both sides.
“This is a mistake,” said Cabinet member Uri Ariel, adding that Israel was caving in to Palestinian terror.
Ariel supports an expanded Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
“You can’t compare between the proprietors [Muslims] and infiltrators [Jews]" Arab-Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi told Israel Radio. "They [Jewish parliamentarians] infiltrated and caused provocations, and because of them there is an escalation — not because of Arab parliamentarians and worshippers who are entering the Mosque of al-Aqsa."
Palestinians have accused Israelis of trying to restrict them from visiting and praying at the mosque, a charge Israel denies. Arab lawmakers have vowed to attend Friday prayers at the disputed site, a move that could further inflame soaring tensions.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he was committed to "peaceful popular resistance" and would not let his people get "dragged" into any more violence.
Netanyahu had warned Israelis to be on "maximum alert" for more violence and trouble, after a particularly bloody day Wednesday.
"Civilians are at the forefront of the war against terrorism and must also be on maximum alert," Netanyahu said while visiting a police command center.
"We have known worse times than this, and we will also overcome this wave of terrorism with determination, responsibility and unity," he said.
There have been daily Palestinian protests throughout the West Bank and in some Israeli towns, where groups of stone-throwing young people have clashed with Israeli police.
Fresh clashes broke out Thursday between protesters and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Tekoa. A series of Israeli raids and arrests was also reported overnight near Nablus.
Tough talk from Netanyahu and Abbas and continued Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian areas have made the chances of a two-state peace deal remote, causing an outpouring of frustration by Palestinians.
Robert Berger contributed to this report from Jerusalem.