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Spiral of violence puts Israelis, Palestinians on high alert

An Israeli extremist has stabbed several Arab men, and Israeli soldiers have shot at least six Palestinians. The attacks, which have spread to the Gaza Strip, come amid a rise in tensions in recent weeks.

At least six Palestinians were killed on Friday after Israeli soldiers fired at a crowd during a rally near the Gaza border. The demonstrators had gathered to show their support for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem, where a wave of violence has occurred over the past days.

Clashes on Friday occurred east of Gaza City along the border with Israel. Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians, including a 15-year-old, and wounded about 50 people, according to medics. It was the deadliest clash in Gaza since the 2014 summer war.

About 200 Palestinians attended the demonstration, with some throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers stationed along the border. At least 14 other people were wounded in the incident, hospital officials said.

The demonstration came shortly after a violent knife attack carried out by a Jewish man against several Arabs, itself a response to a spate of attacks directed at Israelis.

The victims - one an Israeli Arab and the others citizens of the West Bank - were taken to a hospital.

In an interview with a local radio station, Beni Biton, the mayor of Dimona, said the man, who is now in police custody, was known to authorities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since condemned the attack.

Watch video 01:25

Tensions rising in Jerusalem

"The authorities will pursue anyone who engages in violence and violates the law, no matter on what side it occurs," Netanyahu's statement read.

Israel has seen a wave of violence over the past several days, most of it concentrated in parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Anti-Arab protests broke out in Jerusalem on Thursday night, with the stabbing of at least eight Israelis and violent clashes between Palestinians and police.

On Sunday, Israel had barred Palestinians from entering the Old City, a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, after several incidents in which Palestinians stabbed Israeli citizens. Access to the al-Asqa mosque compound, a holy site to Muslims has also been limited in recent days. The site is also of religious importance to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Tension increased after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last month at the UN General Assembly in New York that the Palestinians were no longer bound by
the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords because of Israel's continued settlement activities. The speech was met with a response from Netanyahu, who called it "deceitful."

blc/sms(Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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