Middle East|Four Killed in Southern Israel in Latest in Spate of Attacks
JERUSALEM — Four Israelis were killed in a knife and car-ramming attack in Beersheba, in southern Israel, on Tuesday afternoon, in the third attack on Israeli Jews in less than a week.
The attacker rammed and killed a cyclist with his car outside a gas station, before entering the gas station and stabbing a woman to death, a police commander, Peretz Amar, said in a briefing near the crime scene.
The attacker then returned to his car, drove to a nearby shopping center and stabbed three women, one of whom died, the commander said. The attacker then drove to a nearby roundabout, crashed into a second car, got out and stabbed to death a fourth civilian, the commander said.
Two armed passers-by tried to pacify the attacker before shooting him when he tried to stab one of them, according to video uploaded to social media on Tuesday evening. The attacker later died of his wounds, the police spokesman said.
The attack was the latest instance of an uptick in stabbing attacks by Palestinians across the country in recent weeks. A Jewish jogger was stabbed and injured on Saturday while running through a residential district of West Jerusalem. A day later, two Israeli police officers were stabbed and injured in East Jerusalem.
The attack was the first of its kind in Beersheba since 2015. A sleepy city at the northern end of the Negev desert, Beersheba is not usually at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it has become more prominent in recent months because of tensions over the ownership of nearby land claimed by Arab Bedouin.
The spate of recent attacks has heightened fears of violence in April — when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter unusually all fall at the same time. Ramadan is often a period of high tension in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; tensions related to Ramadan helped stoke the Gaza war last May, and officials and analysts fear the convergence of three religious festivals could further inflame relations.
The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, met with the leaders of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Tuesday. The three did not explain in detail the substance of their discussion, but analysts said at least part of the focus was the possibility of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the coming weeks.
The Jordanian king, Abdullah II, is also expected to visit the West Bank later this month in a bid to lower tensions, Palestinian officials said this week.
The attack in Beersheba followed nearby protests and clashes between Arab citizens of Israel and the Israeli police. Bedouin residents of the area are resisting attempts by Israel to plant a forest on what some Bedouin families say is their ancestral land — a disagreement that to many Palestinians is emblematic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel says the families never had legal ownership of the plots.
The attack on Tuesday was praised by two Islamist militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, though neither claimed responsibility. Israeli media reported that the attacker was a teacher from a nearby Bedouin town who had served a jail term after admitting support for the Islamic State, the terrorist group that once controlled large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Leading Arab politicians in Israel condemned the attack, including Mansour Abbas, an Islamist leader who made history last year by becoming the first Arab Israeli to lead an independent Arab party into a governing coalition.
Mr. Abbas wrote on social media that his party, Raam, “condemns the criminal terror attack” and “extends its condolences to the families of the murdered and wishes a full recovery to the injured.”
He added: “The Arab citizens of the state are law abiding and denounce anyone who uses violence against other citizens. Raam calls on all citizens to protect the delicate fabric of joint life, to show responsibility and to advance tolerant discourse at this difficult hour.”
Jonathan Rosen contributed reporting.