Five dead, at least 10 wounded in attacks, as Biden visits Tel Aviv

Four Palestinian assailants and one victim died in a string of attacks in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area Tuesday, police said, as US Vice-President Joe Biden began his first official talks in Israel in years.

At least 10 people were also injured in the four attacks in one day, one of the worst in five months of ongoing street violence.

In the latest incident, a man with a knife went on a stabbing spree throughout the southern Tel Aviv suburb of Jaffa, killing one and injuring at least six other passersby, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. There was no immediate confirmation that the fatality was a tourist.

Biden was just meeting former Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jaffa at the time of the stabbing, not far from the violence. 

The assailant first stabbed at least three people in Jaffa's ancient port, ran several kilometres northwards onto the seaside promenade and stabbed at least four others near a restaurant, before being overpowered and killed.

A trail of blood stained the promenade. Police said the stabber was a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Qalqiliya, not far north-east from Tel Aviv.

"We have absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to the security of Israel. I hope we can make some progress," Biden said at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.

"You came at a time we are struggling," Peres told him, insisting "there is no alternative" to peace and the two-state solution.

In the third incident, a Palestinian armed with a Carl Gustav rifle earlier opened fire on a policeman in a central East Jerusalem street near the walled Old City. 

Other policemen began chasing the gunman, who managed to shoot another officer before being fatally shot himself, police said. The two officers, shot in the head, were in serious and critical condition.

Moments earlier, a Palestinian was killed after he stabbed a Jewish Israeli in a busy street in Petah Tikva, a town just east of Tel Aviv. 

The suspect followed the Jewish Israeli into a liquor store, lunged onto him and began stabbing him in the upper body. 

Both the victim and the shop owner scuffled with the assailant, managed to grab his knife and stab him back, witnesses said. Spokeswoman Samri said the suspect was then also shot by police who arrived at the scene. 

In the morning, a Palestinian woman was shot dead after she drew a knife from her bag and tried to stab Israeli border policemen patrolling in Jerusalem's Old City. The policemen were not injured, Samri said. She said the officers opened fire because they were in "immediate and real danger." 

Observers speculated the series of attacks may have been deliberately timed with Biden's arrival.

The vice-president was last in Israel for late prime minister Ariel Sharon's funeral in early 2014. 

His last official talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah in early 2010 were overshadowed by an announcement of a controversial construction project in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. 

Biden is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Wednesday morning and expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah in the afternoon. 

His first official talks in six years come two years after the last attempt at US-mediated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed, and amid a wave of ongoing violence that erupted in early October.

Since then, Palestinians have launched scores of knife attacks against Israelis, protesting perceived violations - vehemently denied by Israel - at a disputed Jerusalem holy site, as well as the ongoing occupation.

Israel has blamed the attacks on inflammatory rhetoric by radical Muslim leaders who "brainwash" youths and "glorify martyrdom" Palestinians have blamed oppression.

Over 180 Palestinians and some 30 Israelis have been killed in since early October. Most of the Palestinian dead were attackers shot during stabbings and attempted stabbings.

Netanyahu's office, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the Israeli prime minister would likely not accept a White House invitation for later this month, because there was a "big chance" that he would not travel to Washington for the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby.

Last update: Tue, 08/03/2016 - 19:57
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