February 24, 2016 / 12:52 PM / 3 years ago

Israeli officer killed by army gunfire meant to foil Palestinian knifing

Israeli border police officers perform a body search on a Palestinian youth at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers who opened fire at a knife-wielding Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday accidentally shot dead an air force officer who he was trying to stab, the military said.

It said the Palestinian assailant was wounded in the incident near the Gush Etzion bloc of Jewish settlements, one of the focal points of a five-month-old surge in street violence.

Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October. Israeli security forces have killed at least 168 Palestinians, 111 of whom Israel says were assailants, while most others were shot dead during violent anti-Israeli protests.

Initial reports identified the Israeli killed in Wednesday’s incident as a civilian but the military later said he was a captain, in uniform, on active duty in the air force reserve.

The bloodshed has been fueled by various factors, including a dispute over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to secure the Palestinians an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.

Palestinian leaders have said that with no breakthrough on the horizon, desperate youngsters see no future ahead. Israel says young Palestinians are being incited to violence by their leaders and by Islamist groups calling for Israel’s destruction.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Angus MacSwan

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