Palestinian woman shot dead; Israelis say she was armed, witness disputes it

Israeli police said a Palestinian woman was shot after approaching border police with a knife.

Story highlights

  • Israeli police say a knife-wielding Palestinian woman has been shot dead in Hebron
  • But a Palestinian witness disputes that she had a knife, describes her as schoolgirl
  • Israeli PM Netanyahu pledges to keep status quo at Temple Mount, al-Aqsa mosque

Jerusalem (CNN)Israeli police said they fatally shot a knife-wielding Palestinian woman at a border checkpoint Sunday, but a Palestinian witness disputed that she was armed, saying she was a "terrified" schoolgirl.

The woman aroused the suspicion of border police at a checkpoint beside the Cave of the Patriarchs (known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque) in the West Bank city of Hebron, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
    "They asked her to identify herself and she suddenly took out a knife, started to approach them while shouting at them. The police fired accurately and neutralized her," he said. "There are no injuries to the Border Police force."

    'I don't have a knife'

    A Hebron resident, who asked not to be identified, told CNN he was next in line at the checkpoint -- some 4 meters away -- when the incident occurred.
    "There were seven or eight soldiers around her. The soldiers checked her belongings in a school bag. She looked like she was around 14 years old," he said.
    "She went through a metal detector. In the school bag they found nothing and asked her, 'Where's the knife?' She said, 'I don't have a knife.' Then they fired between her legs. She was terrified and moved back half a meter or a meter.
    "She raised her arms in the air saying 'I don't have a knife.' Then they shot eight to 10 bullets, but I don't know exactly who was shooting. Then she fell on the ground."
    The official Palestinian news agency WAFA also described the woman as a schoolgirl, quoting witnesses as saying Israeli soldiers had prevented medics from reaching her.
    Issa Amer, director of Youth Against Settlements, a Palestinian nonprofit that monitors and documents settler violence and military activity in Hebron, said the group had no information on this specific incident, but "the woman had to go through two metal detectors and revolving doors. This means that her belongings were checked. Also, we call on the military to release video of the incident because there are several CCTV surveillance cameras that record everything in that area."

    Escalating tensions

    It is the latest fatal incident after weeks of escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in and around Israel and the Palestinian territories.
    Eight Israelis have been killed after being stabbed, shot or run over by Palestinians, violence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of inciting, partly with his talk about a disputed holy site in Jerusalem.
    On the other side, Israeli security forces have killed at least 45 Palestinians -- some during attacks-- and wounded 1,850 in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
    Last week, Abbas reiterated his push to have international forces help keep the peace in the region -- something that Netanyahu has resisted. Protecting "the Palestinian people ... is our responsibility," he said, "but we cannot, in (light) of this operation ... by the Israeli army and the settlers against civilian citizens and (using) live ammunition."
    "That's why we've asked the United Nations for international protection, which is a legitimate request," Abbas said. "That's why we've asked ... the world to come and protect us."

    Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque

    Much of the recent violence has centered around the disputed Jerusalem holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as the al-Aqsa Mosque complex, or Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims.
    Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, where the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock are situated, but right-wing Israeli politicians have called for that to change.
    That has set off widespread concern among Palestinians that the status quo is being undermined and that division of the site is coming -- a claim the Israeli government has repeatedly denied.
    Last month, clashes between Arab youths and Israeli police broke out after the latter reported receiving intelligence on the eve of Rosh Hashanah that masked demonstrators had barricaded themselves inside al-Aqsa Mosque while erecting barriers outside.
    The Palestinian news agency Ma'an told a different story, reporting that Israeli forces "stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound shortly after dawn prayer."

    Status quo

    Netanyahu earlier pledged to maintain the status quo at the Temple Mount-al-Aqsa Mosque complex, after agreeing to 24-hour surveillance at the site.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that the surveillance -- proposed by Jordan's King Abdullah -- could be "a game-changer" to reduce regional bloodshed.
    Kerry: Israel agrees to surveillance at holy site
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    The round-the-clock observation "will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency" and discourage "anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site," Kerry said.
    Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that he had made it clear to Kerry that there would be "no change in the status quo."
    "The Temple Mount will remain as is and will be managed as it is now. Arrangements for visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are safeguarded; there will be no change in them, just as the prayer arrangements for the Muslims," Netanyahu said, according to a Facebook post.
    "Israel has an interest in stationing cameras in all parts of the Temple Mount. First, in order to disprove the claim that Israel is changing the status quo. Second, to show where the provocations really come from and to foil them before they ever happen," he said.

    Hamas

    On Sunday, the Islamist group Hamas issued a statement saying that Kerry's remarks came "as an attempt on part of the United States to help the occupation out of the crisis it faces as a result of the Palestinian uprising."
    "The movement noted that the declaration equates Muslim prayer rights with visitation rights for non-Muslims, and could be used to justify provocative visits by Zionist extremist settlers," the statement said.
    "Hamas demanded PA (Palestinian Authority) president Mahmoud Abbas and brothers in Jordan to refuse any compromise that gives the occupation the opportunity to circumvent Palestinian rights in al-Aqsa, or that limits Palestinian ability to protect the mosque," the statement said.
    "Hamas called on all Palestinians to watch out for attempts to abort al-Aqsa Intifada, and to protect al-Aqsa mosque regardless the prices that may have to be paid."