By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager who stabbed a pregnant Israeli woman in the occupied West Bank on Monday, amid signs of Palestinians stepping up attacks against Israelis inside Jewish settlements.
The military ordered Palestinian laborers to leave their workplaces in some settlements as the violence spread from streets and bus stops in the West Bank and Israel to within the usually well-protected Israeli enclaves.
Hospital officials said the woman stabbed in Tekoa, a settlement near Bethlehem, was in moderate condition at a Jerusalem hospital, with the foetus unharmed. The stabber, 17, was in serious condition after being shot in the leg. He is being treated at a separate Jerusalem hospital.
The stabbing was the second at a settlement in as many days. On Sunday, an assailant stabbed to death a mother of six at her home in the southern West Bank. The attacker is still being sought.
The Israeli military ordered all Palestinian laborers who work in the large Gush Etzion bloc of settlements in the southern West Bank to leave their places of employment. Some were seen being driven away in the back of a large dump truck.
"In light of situation assessments and following recent terror attacks ... Palestinian workers have been instructed to leave (Gush Etzion) communities," an army statement said.
Analysts said increased tensions could prompt settlers, who have a strong voice in Israel's right-wing government, to urge policymakers to impose more travel and employment restrictions on Palestinians. If that happens, it could further ratchet up tensions.
"The more settlers feel vulnerable to such brutal attacks, their influential leaders would increase their pressure on the government to more sharply separate Palestinians from settlers," said Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group.
"If past is precedent, such separation, notably the allocation of some West Bank roads exclusively to settlers by diverting Palestinian traffic to secondary tortuous ones, would further radicalize Palestinians," he added.
On Sunday, Daphne Meir, a hospital nurse, was stabbed to death as she tried to fend off an attacker who broke into her home. Neighbors in the settlement of Otniel said they heard one of her daughters screaming for help.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to find the attacker and bring him to justice. He added that Israel would bolster the settlements, although he did not elaborate.
The latest bloodshed comes days after Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon predicted that the grassroots violence was waning.
The wave of attacks, now in its fourth month, has been fueled by a number of factors including Palestinian frustration over the collapse of peace talks, the growth of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians seek for a future state.
Also stoking the violence has been Muslim opposition to increased Jewish visits to Jerusalem's al Aqsa mosque complex, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam and is revered in Judaism as the location of two ancient biblical temples.
Since Oct. 1 when the upsurge in violence began, Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and gun attacks have killed 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen.
In the same period, at least 148 Palestinians have been killed, 94 of whom Israel has described as assailants. Most of the others died during violent demonstrations.
(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Dominic Evans)