Israeli forces have shot dead two Palestinians who stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank, the army says, the latest attack in 12 weeks of heightened violence.
Almost daily Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks have killed 20 Israelis and a US citizen, raising fears of a wider escalation a decade after the last Palestinian uprising subsided.
Since the start of October, Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 130 Palestinians, 81 of whom authorities described as assailants. Most of the others have been killed in clashes with security forces.
In the latest fatal incident, the Israeli military said two Palestinians stabbed a soldier in the village of Hewara, near the West Bank city of Nablus.
‘Forces on site responded to the imminent danger and fired towards the attackers, resulting in their death. An initial inquiry suggests an additional soldier was injured as a result of the fire directed towards the attackers,’ the military said in a statement.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said the two Palestinians were relatives, one aged 17 and the other, 23.
Earlier in the day, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a soldier near Jerusalem’s main bus station. The assailant was overpowered by a security guard and arrested, police said.
The surge in violence has been fuelled by Palestinians’ frustration over Israel’s 48-year occupation of land they seek for an independent state, and the expansion of settlements in those territories which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of US-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.
Violence has also been triggered by Muslim anger over stepped-up Israeli visits to Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque complex. The site, Islam’s holiest outside Saudi Arabia, is also revered by many Jews as a vestige of their biblical temples.
Israeli targets NGOs
Meanwhile, a bill that would impose new regulations on Israeli non-profit groups that receive funds from foreign governments has won ministerial approval, a move critics said targets pro-Palestinian organisations.
Dubbed a ‘transparency bill’ by its sponsor, far-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, it would require NGOs to give details in all their official publications and communications with elected officials in Israel of overseas donations, if more than half of their funding came from foreign governments.
Critics say the legislation is discriminatory because it is mainly groups that oppose the right-wing government’s policies towards Palestinians which receive money from foreign governments and the European Union.
Private funds from overseas, such as money donated to Israeli groups that support Jewish settlement on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state, are not addressed in the bill, which is widely expected to win parliamentary approval.
There are more than 30,000 NGOs registered in Israel, about half of them active. Around 70 of those groups focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and receive funds either from the European Union as a whole, or individual governments, including Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Norway.
Shaked has said she was determined to crack down on those who take foreign money and then criticise Israel, accusing some NGOs of ‘eroding the legitimacy of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state’.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Shaked said the Israeli public had a ‘right to know when foreign governments are involved in the domestic matters of another country’.
From the point of view of advocacy groups, the bill is a dangerous step that would put Israel in a category with the likes of Russia, Turkey and neighbouring Egypt, which often struggle to accept internal criticism and have banned some NGOs.
On Twitter, Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that tracks and opposes Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, called the legislation ‘a hate crime against democracy’.
‘If the minister of justice is truly interested in transparency, she must first and foremost promote legislation requiring right-wing organisations to expose the millions they receive from private donors abroad and from the state budget,’ it said.