Two Jewish men, one walking with his wife and infant and the other rushing to his aid, were stabbed to death Saturday in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli officials and news reports said.
Aharon Bennet, 21, a religious Jew serving in the military, was walking through the Old City with his family when a Palestinian youth attacked them with a knife, Israeli media reported. His wife suffered serious wounds; the infant, whose gender was not immediately known, was lightly injured.
Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, who rushed from his nearby home to the site to aid the victims, was also killed.
A suspect was fatally shot by police officers. Israeli news reports identified him as Mohannad Halabi, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Ramallah, who studied law in Jerusalem.
In a series of recent posts on Facebook, Halabi appeared fiercely angry over recent clashes around Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City and what he perceived as mistreatment of Muslim women at the site.
“From what I see, the third Intifada is already here,” one post read.
Daoud Shihab, spokesman for the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in Gaza, told BBC that the assailant was a member of Islamic Jihad but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.
Hamas leader Ismael Radwan called the attack “heroic” and vowed that Israel would have no security “as long as the Al Aqsa mosque is in danger.”
It was the second fatal attack on Israeli Jews in three days. On Thursday, a husband and wife, Eitam and Naama Henkin, were shot to death on a West Bank road while driving in a car with their four children, who were unharmed.
The killings cap weeks of tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with firebombs and rock attacks against Israelis becoming routine, challenging security forces and government policy.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the knife attack Saturday as “ruthless and cruel terrorism aimed at innocent civilians” and said it was the result of incitement coming from the Palestinian Authority and sounding in mosques. He urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take tougher measures against those perpetrating and encouraging violence.
A statement from Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and urged Netanyahu to couple an “iron fist” against the violence with a “befitting Zionist response”: stepping up Jewish construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which the minister said was frozen.
“Netanyahu has lost control over the security of Israeli citizens,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on Facebook after the attack, adding that the government needed a plan for fighting militancy but also a clear policy and direction.
Netanyahu is expected to return Sunday from the United States, where he addressed the United Nations and met with Secretary of State John F. Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Israeli media reported that Netanyahu will convene a special consultation at the Defense Ministry on Sunday and discuss the escalating situation with top military, police and intelligence chiefs. In addition, the prime minister plans to convene the security cabinet Monday evening.
Meanwhile, the army said it had made “progress” in investigating Thursday’s fatal shooting of the Henkins, with Palestinian Maan News Agency saying eight people had been arrested in Nablus.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.