Palestinian Who Stabs Israeli in East Jerusalem Is Killed by Police

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian assailant stabbed and wounded an Israeli civilian near the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon, before approaching two Israeli police officers who fired at the attacker, knocked him to the ground, and then killed him as he lay on the road, videos of the confrontation showed.

The knife attack was at least the fifth in Jerusalem since the start of September, reviving memories of 2015-16, when scores of Israelis were stabbed by Palestinians in what some called the “knife intifada,” a reference to earlier Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation. It also follows the killing of an Israeli tour guide by a Palestinian gunman last month, and a spike in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The nature of the assailant’s death on Saturday led to accusations that the Israeli police had killed him after he was felled and incapacitated.

In one video from the scene, which does not include footage of the initial attack, the stabber is seen being shot three times after dropping to the ground. The recording also appeared to show a third police officer signaling to colleagues to stop firing. The two officers, from the Israel Border Guard, were placed under investigation, the state broadcaster reported.

The incident led to fears of renewed unrest in East Jerusalem, the center of one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Old City, which lies just inside East Jerusalem, houses the most sacred site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, and the Aqsa Mosque, one of the most hallowed places in Islam.

Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on Saturday.Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed it. But Palestinians consider it occupied territory and hope it will one day form the capital of a Palestinian state.

Disputes over Palestinian land rights in East Jerusalem, coupled with several Israeli raids on the Aqsa Mosque compound, led Hamas, the militant Islamist group in Gaza, to fire rockets toward the city in May, setting off an 11-day war with Israel. Following Saturday’s incident, a Hamas leader condemned the nature of the attacker’s killing, Palestinian media reported.

In silent footage of the incident released by the Israeli government, the attacker walked calmly across a pedestrian crossing leading to a plaza beside the Damascus Gate, a major entry point into the Old City, and a focus of Palestinian communal life in Jerusalem. Reaching a traffic island, he suddenly turned and repeatedly stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man behind him. The victim was identified in the Israeli news media as Avraham Elmaliah, a 20-year-old who had been praying at the Western Wall, one of the last remaining parts of an ancient Jewish temple compound.

The attacker was identified by the Israeli state broadcaster as Muhammad Salima, a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had served a jail term for incitement.

The footage showed Mr. Salima then attempting to stab an approaching policeman, before running toward a second nearby officer. At least one of the officers then shot him and he was seen falling to the ground. A second video, filmed from a passing car, showed that the attacker had subsequently been shot at least three times after falling.

Interviewed in the hospital by the Israeli news media, Mr. Elmaliah thanked the police for having intervened. “They saved me,” he was reported to have said by Yediot Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper. “Without them, I would not be here today.”

The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, also defended the police officers.

“The two combatants took very swift and determined action, as expected of Israel’s police, when confronted with a terrorist who tried to murder an Israeli civilian,” Mr. Bennett said on social media. “I should like to express my full support for them. This is how we expect our combatants to act, and this is how they acted. We must not allow our capital to become a focus of terrorism.”

But Ahmed Tibi, a lawmaker in the Israeli Parliament, and an Arab citizen of Israel, called the episode “a coldblooded execution” of an injured man “who presented no danger to anyone.”

Mr. Tibi added: “This is a criminal act that requires investigation.”

Carol Sutherland contributed reporting from Moshav Ben Ami, Israel.

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