A Palestinian paramedic steps out of an ambulance outside a morgue in Bethlehem carrying the body of eight-month-old Ramadan Thawabteh, who died yesterday after being exposed to teargas fired by the Israeli army.
A Palestinian baby boy died yesterday after choking on teargas fired by Israeli forces, Palestinian officials said, as new knife attacks and clashes shook Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Eight-month-old Ramadan Thawabteh became the latest victim of a wave of violence that erupted a month ago in Jerusalem but has since shifted to the occupied West Bank with daily knife attacks on Israeli soldiers and violent protests.
Jerusalem saw its first knife attack in two weeks yesterday when a 23-year-old Palestinian stabbed and lightly wounded an American tourist before being shot dead, police said.
Many fear the surge of unrest heralds a new Intifada, or uprising, against Israel by a generation gripped by despair and anger over decades of occupation and stalled peace efforts.
In the city of Nablus, two Palestinians allegedly tried to stab members of Israeli forces guarding a major checkpoint, and were shot, police said. One died and the other was wounded and arrested.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, in the volatile city of Hebron hundreds of youths threw stones and firebombs and rolled burning tyres at Israeli soldiers who responded with teargas and rubber bullets.
Bethlehem also saw violent clashes, and teargas fired by Israeli troops near the home of Ramadan Thawabteh “asphyxiated” the baby, a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry said.
Clashes also erupted in Ramallah where an Israeli army jeep hit a crowd of protesters, injuring a young man.
Israeli police said security forces “saw a Palestinian armed with a sharp object” approaching them. An officer then ordered one of his men driving a jeep to hit the assailant who was “seriously injured”.
The Palestinian health ministry reported eight youths wounded by gunfire and another hit by a rubber bullet in Ramallah.
In the blockaded Gaza Strip, where 17 Palestinians have died in clashes in recent weeks, protesters clashed with Israeli forces along the northern and eastern borders.
More than 50 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in Gaza, and two were in a critical condition, medical sources said.
Tensions first flared in September over the status of the flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, before spiralling into a series of violent attacks from October 1.
Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking to change the rules governing the site, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted he will not alter the status quo which forbids Jews from praying there.
The violence has left nine Israelis dead.
The deaths of the baby and the latest attackers took the number of Palestinians killed in the recent unrest to 65, including many shot during protests.
One Israeli Arab attacker has also been shot dead.
One alleged attacker, a 13-year-old Palestinian, appeared in court yesterday and was charged with attempted murder for a knife attack on two Israeli schoolboys.
Many of the attackers who have targeted Israeli forces come from Hebron.
The city is another powder-keg, and many attacks have taken place around the holy site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Yesterday, dozens of protesters outside the site, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, condemned restrictions on access imposed by Israel, which has split it into a mosque and a synagogue.
The Maariv newspaper reported that more army checkpoints were being set up in Hebron at the entrances and exits to Jewish areas, where Palestinians aged 15 to 25 will not be allowed to pass.
ICC urged to speed up war crimes probe against Israel
Top Palestinian officials yesterday urged the world’s only permanent war crimes court to speed up a probe into allegations of Israeli abuses amid an upsurge of fresh violence between the two sides.
“It is extremely important to expedite the process... because if Israel feels impunity, what will deter Israel from multiplying the victims?” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki.
He was speaking after handing over a new dossier to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) “making reference to the extra-judicial killings, home demolition and collective punishments”.
It also cited examples “in the last 40 days of Israeli aggression”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met yesterday with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for the first time since the Palestinian Authority sparked controversy by joining the tribunal in January.
Malki said he had handed the new “well-prepared document” to Bensouda earlier in the day.
To Israel’s fury, the Palestinians formally asked the ICC earlier this year to investigate the Jewish state for alleged war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war.
Some 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the 50-day war in July and August 2014, as well as 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
Bensouda has officially opened a preliminary inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes—by either the Palestinians or the Israelis—which would merit formal investigation.
“We have asked them to expedite that process,” Malki told reporters outside the tribunal in The Hague.
The Palestinian delegation had also urged ICC officials to visit the territories, but were told they were “awaiting approval from the Israeli side”, Malki said.
The court needed to “expedite their investigation to reach a final conclusion that they have a solid basis and enough evidence to prove that Israel has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, for the ICC to open a full investigation”, he added.
“We hope that they would reach the conclusion soon.”
Earlier top Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said the 52-page dossier alleged “summary executions, collective punishments, house demolitions and ethnic cleansing” and was backed by “verified photos and videos”.
It was the third dossier to be handed to the ICC, after Malki handed over two files in June—one on the Gaza war and one on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel, which has not signed up to the ICC, has vehemently opposed the Palestinian attempt to trigger a full investigation for war crimes.
The move also angered the United States which denounced it as “counterproductive”.
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