December 25, 2015 / 1:40 AM / 4 years ago

Israeli forces kill four Palestinian assailants in West Bank

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed four Palestinian assailants in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the army said, as a 12-week surge in street violence showed no sign of abating.

In the latest in a wave of almost daily assaults, a knife-wielding Palestinian hurt two guards on Thursday near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and was shot dead, the army said.

In other locations in the West Bank, another Palestinian was shot dead while trying to stab a soldier with a screwdriver, and a third after injuring a soldier in a car-ramming, the army said.

Near Qalandia in the West Bank, Israeli troops carrying out an arrest raid shot two Palestinians who fired at them from within a crowd of rock- and petrol bomb-throwing protesters, the army said. Local medics said a Palestinian was killed and six wounded. The army said two soldiers were hurt in the incident.

Among drivers for the bloodshed have been access to a contested Jerusalem shrine, stalled peace talks and a July 31 arson by suspected Jewish zealots that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents, an incident which Israeli authorities have not yet cleared up.

Video footage of far-right Jews mocking the arson victims sparked outrage in Israel on Thursday and debate over whether the leak aimed to sway public opinion in favor of tough interrogation of several suspects who are in state custody.

Aired on television late on Wednesday, the clip showed a Jerusalem wedding last week at which a dancing celebrant stabbed a picture of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh while others waved assault rifles, knives and what appeared to be a petrol bomb.

“The shocking pictures that were broadcast show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger to Israeli society and to the security of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“The pictures underscore how important a strong Israel Security Agency is to the security of us all,” he said.

Slideshow (3 Images)

With Israel hinting indictments over the arson in the West Bank village of Duma may be imminent, some of the suspects’ lawyers have accused the security agency - also known as the Shin Bet - of trying to exact false confessions with torture.

The Shin Bet, in a rare public response, denied on Thursday it had tortured any of the suspects and said such “lies” were being disseminated in an effort to undermine the investigation.

Palestinians have killed 20 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 124 Palestinians, 76 of whom authorities described as assailants, while others died in clashes with security forces.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Alison Williams and Adrian Croft

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