By Maayan Lubell
Israeli forces destroyed the homes of two Palestinian militants and sealed off part of a third in Jerusalem on Tuesday, in a crackdown launched by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after four Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks.
Violence has intensified in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, raising concerns of a wider escalation, though it has not yet reached the level of past Israeli-Palestinian confrontations.
Four Israelis have been killed and three wounded since Thursday in two stabbings and a drive-by shooting blamed on Palestinian militants. Police shot dead two of the assailants.
Two Palestinians, one of them a teen, have been killed and about 170 injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank since Sunday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called security officials to a meeting late on Monday.
“The president asked the military council and the commanders of security apparatus to be alert and careful and to deny the Israelis any chance to escalate the situation,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
Netanyahu, facing pressure from within his right-wing government and from Jewish settler leaders, announced a series of measures on Monday to curb the violence [ID: L8N12545H]. Officials, citing the security situation, said a planned two-day visit by Netanyahu to Germany later this week had been cut to one day.
The Israeli military said in a statement it had demolished the family home of a Palestinian who in November 2014 killed four rabbis and a police officer in a Jerusalem synagogue before he and another attacker were shot dead at the scene by police.
A second destroyed house belonged to a Palestinian killed by police in August 2014 after a construction vehicle he was driving fatally struck an Israeli pedestrian in Jerusalem. Police said he deliberately ran over the man, and footage showed him using the mechanical arm to tear into and overturn an Israeli commuter bus.
Part of the house of a third Palestinian, killed in October 2014 after what police said was an attempt to assassinate a far-right Jewish activist, was sealed off, the military said.
Israel has said such demolitions are punitive and can also serve as a deterrent to other potential attackers.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that regular security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule, was continuing.
The Palestinians seek a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014.
Recent tensions have been inflamed in particular by frequent clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Palestinians fear increasing visits by Jewish groups to al-Aqsa, revered by Jews as the site of biblical temples, are eroding Muslim religious control there.