Israel deploys troops amid continuing unrest

At least 300 soldiers were deployed in cities across Israel, joining a reinforced force of some 4,000 police officers patrolling the streets and bus routes

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Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed in cities across Israel on Wednesday and authorities erected concrete barriers outside some Arab neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem in stepped up efforts to counter a weeks of unrest.

Israeli police said 300 soldiers had been deployed in cities across Israel, joining a reinforced force of some 4,000 police officers already patrolling the streets and bus routes of occupied Jerusalem. On Wednesday, police were seen waving through a line of cars as cranes placed concrete blocks at the entrances to Arab neighborhoods in occupied east Jerusalem, where many of the assailants are from.

The enhanced measures came as Israel struggles to contain the spiraling violence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces heavy pressure from hard-liners in his governing coalition to stamp out the attacks.

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Palestinians called the new measures “collective punishment” that would only further enflame tensions. Palestinian leaders say the violence is the result of frustration and lack of hope for ending nearly 50 years of occupation and gaining independence.

The military’s deployment of six companies to back up thousands of police marks the first implementation of steps approved by Israel’s security Cabinet early Wednesday, which also include stripping attackers of their Jerusalem residency rights and demolishing assailants’ homes. The Cabinet also authorized police to impose closures on centers of friction in Occupied Jerusalem.

“I think all the decisions we took ... will lead eventually to us being able to restore calm,” Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom told Israeli Channel 2 TV news.

But even with the heightened security, more violence hit occupied Jerusalem on Wednesday.

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Police said the 70-year-old woman was wounded in a knife attack as she boarded a bus outside occupied Jerusalem’s central bus station. Forces on the scene shot and killed the attacker, who Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet said was allegedly a 23-year-old Palestinian resident of occupied Jerusalem who had been jailed from 2012 until earlier this year.

Earlier, police shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Hebron who said he allegedly attempted to stab police officers outside Jerusalem’s Old City.

Violence erupted a month ago over the Jewish New Year, fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine and a key national symbol for the Palestinians.

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