JERUSALEM (AP) — Two Palestinian teenagers wielding knives fatally stabbed an Israeli and seriously wounded another at a supermarket in the West Bank on Thursday before they were shot and wounded by an Israeli bystander, the military said.
The two Israeli victims were taken to an Israeli hospital along with the Palestinian attackers. The Israeli military later announced that a 21-year-old off duty soldier, Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman died of wounds sustained in the attack.
Channel 10 TV reported that the Palestinian attackers, teenagers from the Ramallah area, walked around the supermarket for about 20 minutes scoping out victims before stabbing two shoppers in the back and neck.
The station spoke with an unidentified civilian who said he opened fire at the attackers. The civilian, who was carrying a gun, said he was inside a prayer area near the supermarket and soon after services began, he heard screaming, went outside and shot at the attackers.
Israeli police released photographs from the supermarket showing blood splattered on the floor of an isle stocked with laundry detergent on display near a shopping cart.
The assault was the latest in months of near-daily Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel. Most of the attacks have been stabbings, shootings and assaults in which Palestinians rammed vehicles into Israelis. Since mid-September, 28 Israelis have been killed in the Palestinian attacks while 162 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 115 said by Israel to be attackers. The rest died in clashes with security forces.
"A man returns from his day at work, stops to buy groceries for the Sabbath, and is taken away forever by murderous villains," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. "We will stand strong and respond firmly to restore calm and normality to the lives of our citizens everywhere. We will defeat terrorism."
The supermarket, popular with both Israeli and Palestinian shoppers, has been targeted before over the past months of violence. It is located in the West Bank, territory Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war that the Palestinians demand for part of their future state.
Earlier Thursday, before the supermarket attack, Israel's defense minister urged Israeli forces to exercise restraint and use deadly force only when needed in the face of relentless attacks by Palestinians. The remarks by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon echoed similar remarks by the country's military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, a day earlier.
Israel has faced criticism by the Palestinians and others for what they say is sometimes an excessive use of force amid the five month-long wave of violence.
"We cannot be trigger happy," Yaalon told a conference in northern Israel. "We need to act with restraint, without creating circumstances in which boiling blood causes us to become desensitized, to lose morals in a way that erodes our way and its justness."
On Wednesday, Eisenkot told a meeting with high school students that when "there is a 13-year-old girl who is holding scissors or a knife and there is a barrier between her and the soldiers, I wouldn't want a soldier to open fire and empty a magazine on a girl like that, even if she commits a very serious act."
He urged soldiers to use only "necessary force" and said that the military's rules of engagement allowed for a response in life-threatening situations.
The outburst of Palestinian violence, which began in September over tensions at the most holy site in Jerusalem, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, shows no signs of abating. Israel says the violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement, compounded on social media sites that glorify and encourage attacks. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule and dwindling hopes for gaining independence.