Palestinians have carried out two stabbing attacks in Jerusalem on Saturday before being shot dead by police, while another two people were killed during a violent demonstration near the Gaza border fence, as a week-long bout of violence showed no signs of slowing.
Jerusalem has seen a wave of stabbing attacks linked to tensions over a sensitive holy site in the Old City that is sacred to Jews and Muslims.
In recent days the attacks by Palestinian assailants have spread to the rest of Israel, while violent protests have erupted in the West Bank and along the Gaza border, where seven Palestinians were killed on Friday.
Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand the Jewish presence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, revered by Muslims as the spot where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven and by Jews because it was the site of the two biblical temples.
Under a long-standing arrangement administered by Islamic authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the site during certain hours, but may not pray there.
The violence has unnerved a jittery Israel, and prompted the US to issue a fresh call for restraint by all sides.
In the first stabbing on Saturday, a 16-year-old Arab attacked two Israelis walking from the Old City towards the city centre, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Police opened fire, killing the attacker. The two stabbing victims were slightly wounded.
Later, just outside the Old City, another Palestinian stabbed two police officers, one in the neck. Mr Rosenfeld said other police forces opened fire and killed the attacker, but also wounded one of their own. Three officers were taken to hospital, one in a serious condition.
On the Gaza frontier, protests resumed on Saturday afternoon, with dozens of Palestinians throwing stones and rolling burning tyres towards Israeli troops along the border fence.
Gaza health officials said Israeli forces shot dead a 13 year old and an 11 year old. The Israeli military said it fired towards protesters who approached the border.
Later the military said dozens of Palestinians breached the border and briefly enteredIsrael. The military said five were detained for questioning while the others retreated.
The Gaza border has been largely calm since last summer’s war between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the coastal territory. A rocket was fired late on Saturday into Israel but intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, the military said. It was the second rocket attack in 24 hours. No injuries or damage was reported.
Police in an Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhood also came under attack overnight and responded with gunfire, hitting a 25 year old who died of his wounds. Violent protests broke out after the man’s funeral, with rocks and firebombs hurled toward police, who opened fire and lightly wounded two people.
Protests also took place in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where demonstrators hurled rocks at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas. In the West Bank city of Hebron, thousands took part in two funeral processions for Palestinians who were killed while carrying out attacks in recent days.
Late on Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said a 28-year-old Palestinian man in the village of Beit Omar, near Hebron, died from wounds sustained in clashes on Thursday.
About1,500 people gathered in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth on Saturday to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinians. Other protests also took place in different Arab cities, where masked demonstrators clashed with police.
Recent days have seen a series of attacks by young Palestinians wielding household items like kitchen knives, screwdrivers and even a vegetable peeler. The youths had no known links to armed groups and have targeted Israeli soldiers and civilians at random, complicating efforts to predict or prevent the attacks.
The violence, including an apparent revenge attack in which an Israeli stabbed and wounded four Arabs on Friday, as well as increasing protests by Israel’s own Arab minority, has raised fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Since the latest wave of unrest began this month, eight Palestinians have been killed while carrying out attacks and 13 have been killed in protests and clashes in the West Bank and Gaza. The Red Crescent medical service says more than 500 Palestinians have been wounded in violent protests in the West Bank, including about 100 from live fire.
At the start of the month, Palestinians shot dead two Israelis in front of their children in the West Bank. In a separate incident, a Palestinian wielding a knife killed two Israeli men and wounded a mother and toddler in Jerusalem before being shot dead.
US secretary of state John Kerry called Israeli and Palestinian leaders to express concern over the spate of violence at holy sites in Jerusalem.
In separate calls with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Kerry stressed the importance of preventing inflammatory rhetoric and said the US would lend support where it could to restore calm.
Mr Abbas said his people had no interest in further violence and he was committed to “peaceful popular resistance”. But he voiced support for protesters who clashed with Israeli police at Al-Aqsa, hurling stones, firebombs and fireworks.
The Palestinian health ministry later said a pregnant woman, Noor Hassan, 30, and her two-year-old daughter had been killed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza strip.
Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Kidra said four others were wounded, including Ms Hassan’s husband and son.
The Israeli military said it was targeting Hamas weapons manufacturing facilities in response to earlier rocket fire towards Israel.
The Gaza border had been largely calm since last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas until the latest violence flared across Israel and the West Bank.