Masked Israeli policemen at the scene where two Palestinians stabbed Israelis next to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on December 23, 2015
Masked Israeli policemen at the scene where two Palestinians stabbed Israelis next to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on December 23, 2015 © Gali Tibbon - AFP/File
Masked Israeli policemen at the scene where two Palestinians stabbed Israelis next to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on December 23, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Palestinians stab three in Jerusalem, one shot dead: police

A Jerusalem knife attack on Wednesday ended with an Israeli stabbed to death, and another killed, seemingly by a stray police bullet, as officers shot dead the Palestinian assailants.

The attack occurred at the Old City's Jaffa Gate, a popular entrance for tourists at a time of increased visits to the Holy Land for the Christmas season.

"Three (Israeli) casualties were taken from the scene, two with multiple stab wounds and another with a gunshot wound, apparently from the police fire to neutralise the terrorists," a police statement said.

"The critically injured gunshot victim has died of his injury," Jerusalem's Shaarei Tzedek hospital later said in a statement.

It said he was Ofer Ben-Ari, a 46-year-old married father of two from Jerusalem.

The city's Haddasah hospital said a short time later that one of the stabbing victims had died of multiple knife wounds. It named him as Reuven Birmacher, 45, from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Kiryat Yearim, just outside Jerusalem.

The second stabbing casualty was said to be in intensive care but out of danger after surgery.

Police said the two attackers, aged 20 and 21, were from Qalandiya refugee camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They were not named.

A wave of violence since the start of October has claimed the lives of 125 on the Palestinian side, 19 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at a reception in west Jerusalem overlooking the Old City when news of the deaths broke.

"We are under continuous terrorist attack," his office quoted him as saying. "We shall fight it and we shall win."

Shortly after the stabbings, the body of one of the attackers lay on the walkway near where buses drop off tourists, with security forces cordoning off the area.

However, the corpse was quickly removed and the pavement hosed down, with little trace of what happened, as tour groups arrived later and walked past.

Jaffa Gate is a major entry point to the Old City for tourists. From there, they make their way to the Stations of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- built over the site where it is widely believed Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected -- as well as the Western Wall.

The Old City is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed.

- 'Blood brings blood' -

A 39-year-old restaurant owner near Jaffa Gate said "we heard six shots".

"We saw a lot of police there. It was really like a movie," he said. "We feel sad because blood brings more blood."

Many of the Palestinians killed have been attackers, while others have been shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces.

The stabbers have often been Palestinian youths, even teenagers, who appear to be acting on their own.

A number of them have attempted attacks with kitchen knives in what some analysts have described as virtual suicide missions.

Palestinians have grown frustrated with Israel's occupation, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership, while international efforts to end the violence have so far failed.

Separately, the Shin Bet internal security agency said it had arrested a group of 25 Palestinians in recent weeks for allegedly planning bombing and suicide attacks against Israelis.

Bombings have so far not played a role in the current wave of violence.

The agency said most of the suspects were students at Abu Dis university in the West Bank who were recruited by Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip to "form a military infrastructure to carry out bombing attacks".

The Shin Bet said it had also found an apartment in Abu Dis rented by the group's leader and equipped with materials that could be used to make bombs.

One of the suspects was an east Jerusalem resident, and another was a Bedouin from southern Israel, it said.

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