American among 5 slain in attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank
Five people were killed Thursday during a series of fatal attacks in Israel and the West Bank, in one of the bloodiest days in the weeks-long wave of violence.
An 18-year-old American student was reported to be among the day’s victims.
Officials said two Jewish men were killed when a Palestinian man entered the Panorama commercial and office building in Tel Aviv and stabbed them as they were praying in a space designated as a synagogue for visitors.
The assailant fled through a parking area and seriously injured another man before being stopped by bystanders armed with a metal pole. They held the man until police arrived and took him into custody, authorities said.
Medics pronounced one victim dead on the scene; the other died of his wounds at a hospital.
Police identified the suspect as Raed Masalmah, a 36-year-old father of five from the West Bank village of Dura, who worked at a nearby restaurant and entered Israel legally with a permit. He was lightly injured when he was apprehended, they said.
The second incident occurred in the West Bank, when a driver emerged from a car by the Alon Shvut settlement and opened fire on a row of vehicles stopped in traffic. The driver then continued to the next junction and rammed the vehicle into a group of pedestrians at a crowded bus stop.
According to the Magen David Adom emergency services, the gunfire killed three men riding in three vehicles. Security troops fired at the car and apprehended the suspect, a Palestinian, officials said.
One of the dead was the American, identified by Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld in a tweet as Ezra Schwartz. Media reports indicated that Schwartz was from Sharon, Mass., and was studying at a yeshiva in Beit Shemesh.
Another of the victims reportedly was a Palestinian.
At least four other people were injured during the attack and were taken to Jerusalem for medical treatment, officials said.
Thursday was the highest death toll in one day in attacks by Palestinians during the recent outbreak of violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attacks, which he blamed on the influence of Islamic militancy, and extended condolences to the victims’ families.
“Anyone condemning the attacks in France must condemn the attacks in Israel,” Netanyahu said. Those refraining from doing so “act with blindness and hypocrisy,” he said.
The prime minister vowed to continue Israel’s “determined battle against terror,” including measures to demolish homes of perpetrators and revoke their families’ residency. “There is no immunity for terrorists,” he said.
Thursday’s incidents came as U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is set to arrive next week for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah in a bid to calm the violence that has claimed scores of lives in the last two months.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss the implementation of Israeli confidence-building measures.
Kerry is to meet the same day with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.
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