By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
An Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian mother and daughter in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and police, confronting a surge of stabbing attacks in Israel, said they foiled an attempt to drive a car bomb into Jerusalem.
Four Israelis and 23 Palestinians have died in 12 days of bloodshed that has spread from Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to Israel’s interior and Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Israel said its aircraft targeted a Hamas facility in Gaza Strip after cross-border rocket fire. Palestinian medical officials said a pregnant woman and her three-year-old daughter living near the site were killed when their house collapsed.
On a West Bank road leading to Jerusalem, police pulled over a car driven by a Palestinian woman who they said shouted “God is great” and detonated an explosive when an officer approached. The woman was seriously wounded and the officer was also hurt.
“We foiled a car bomb attack,” Rafi Cohen, a police commander, told reporters at the scene. “We have no doubt the woman terrorist who drove the vehicle intended to reach Jerusalem.”
The car was only slightly damaged by the blast and Cohen said there were more explosives still in the vehicle. He declined to elaborate but Army Radio reported that gas canisters were found inside.
Palestinians have so far not used bombs – a hallmark of their second uprising, from 2000 to 2005 – in the current violence, which Israeli leaders have described as a “wave of terror” falling short of an organised “Intifada”.
Against a backdrop of Muslim protests over Jewish access to al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, revered by Jews as the site of biblical temples, Palestinians have been attacking Israelis with knives, rocks and, on at least one occasion, guns.
Palestinians see increasing visits over the past year by Jewish groups and right-wing lawmakers to the al-Aqsa plaza, which is Islam’s third holiest site, as eroding Muslim religious control of the compound.
Israel has said repeatedly it has no intention of allowing any change to the status quo under which Jews are allowed to visit the site but non-Muslim prayer is banned.
The almost daily Palestinian knife attacks and clashes between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians have not reached the intensity of past Palestinian uprisings, but the rapid escalation has stirred talk of a third “Intifada”.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official, said security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, was continuing.
“The Palestinian Authority is not interested in matters deteriorating, because then they would be swallowed up in the cloud of violence and the fire and terror that is liable to develop,” he told Army Radio.