JERUSALEM: Israel took the rare and drastic step of barring Palestinians from Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday as tensions mounted following attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded a child.
The restrictions will be in place for two days, with only Israelis, tourists, residents of the area, business owners and students allowed, police said.
The usually bustling alleyways of the walled Old City were mostly quiet on Sunday morning, with stores closed and hundreds of police guarding entrances.
A group of around 50 women as well as several men protested outside a gate before demonstrating inside the neighborhood, where they were blocked by police. Police later fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse protesters at the gate, an AFP journalist reported.
Some 300,000 Palestinians live in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where the Old City is located.
Saturday’s attacks came with Israeli security forces already on alert after recent clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound and surrounding Old City, as well as the murder in the West Bank of a Jewish settler couple in front of their young children.
On Saturday night, a Palestinian said to be an Islamist militant killed two Israeli men and wounded a woman and a toddler in a knife and gun attack in the Old City. Police shot dead the attacker.
In a separate incident early Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a passerby in west Jerusalem before being shot dead by police while fleeing.
Overnight in the West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli soldiers raided a refugee camp to arrest a Hamas official identified as Qais al-Saadi, Palestinian security sources said.
Clashes broke out, leaving two Palestinians wounded by live fire and 16 others by rubber bullets, security and medical sources said. Three Palestinians were arrested, but not Saadi.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to return from the United States on Sunday and hold consultations with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. His security cabinet is also to meet on Monday, after the end of the Jewish Sukkot holiday, Israeli media reported.
There have been fears that the sporadic violence could spin out of control, with some warning of the risk of a third Palestinian intifadah, or uprising.
Last week, in his address to the UN General Assembly, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he was no longer bound by previous accords with Israel, accusing the Israeli government of violating them.
Saturday’s Old City attack saw a two-year-old child slightly wounded in the leg and taken to hospital. A woman was in serious condition, rescue services said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it appeared the child had been shot.
The two men who were killed were a 41-year-old rabbi and resident of the Old City as well as a 21-year-old who lived in a West Bank settlement and was an off-duty soldier, Israeli media said.
Media reports said three of the victims were members of the same ultra-Orthodox family on their way to pray at the Western Wall.
The attacker first used a knife, but reportedly took a gun from one of the male victims and fired at police when they responded after being alerted, before he was himself shot dead.