Israel and the West Bank was plunged into another day of violence on Christmas Eve as three Palestinians were killed during attacks on Israelis and a fourth in clashes with the Israeli military in the restive refugee camp of Qalandia, close to Ramallah.
Early on Thursday a Palestinian was shot after driving his car into a police checkpoint near the Israeli settlement of Geva Benjamin, just an hour after another Arab attacker tried to stab a soldier with a screwdriver at a checkpoint near Hebron. A Palestinian was also shot dead after attacking two security guards near the Ariel settlement.
Israeli soldiers later attempted to enter the Qalandia camp to arrest Palestinians it believed were linked to the Geva Benjamin car attack and were "assaulted by a violent mob" throwing Molotov cocktails and stones, an Israeli military spokesman said. Soldiers shot dead 32-year-old Bilal Zayed, who the military claim was armed.
A day earlier two Palestinians were shot dead outside Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate when they killed an Israeli and injured another in a knife attack. Both attackers were from Qalandia refugee camp, a sprawling neighbourhood just yards away from the heavily-fortified checkpoint of the same name, which divides Jerusalem from the West Bank and is regularly the scene of violent clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and the military.
The five attacks in just two days come after months of violence in Israel and the West Bank, during which 21 Israelis and 135 Palestinians have died. Many of the Palestinian deaths have come after knife attackers were shot dead by police, soldiers or members of the public, but others have been killed in the regular violent protests that have taken place in flashpoints such as Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah.
The violence flared over access to al-Aqsa Mosque and has become known as the 'knife intifada', recalling the previous two intifadas – or 'uprisings' – of Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Dozens of lone wolf attacks have shocked Israel and the West Bank, with both male and female Palestinian teenagers carrying out stabbings in broad daylight, many of them in Jerusalem.
The knife intifada has intensified amidst a backdrop of a total breakdown in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and a spate of grisly murders including the arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his family in the village of Duma earlier this year. A video surfaced on Thursday that showed radical Jewish activists celebrating the deaths at a local wedding.