Two masked attackers stabbed two Israeli women taking a walk in a Jerusalem forest on Tuesday, police said, setting off a manhunt to capture the assailants.
Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said five women were walking along a Jerusalem promenade near the “Peace Forest” when they were attacked from behind. Two of them, both said to be about 70 years of age, were stabbed and were taken to a hospital with moderate injuries.
After setting up checkpoints and searching an Arab area of east Jerusalem, police arrested two men, but they were released soon after.
Israel has seen nearly eight months of Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, but also shooting and vehicular assaults, that have killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during the same time, most of them said by Israel to have been attackers while the rest were killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
In recent weeks, violence has also flared up on the Gaza border, with militants launching mortar rounds at Israel and Israeli aircraft and tanks responding. Israel has also discovered two underground tunnels stretching from the coastal territory into Israel and on Tuesday, the military said it has arrested a Hamas operative who has provided information about the Islamic militant group’s tunnel network. Israel said it arrested another Hamas member last week who also had divulged details about the tunnels.
Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in 2014 that killed some 2,200 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them civilians. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed.
Toward the end of the 2014 war, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels that Hamas had dug under the border. Hamas militants had used the tunnels to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks.
The war left entire neighbourhoods in Gaza flattened, destroying 11,000 homes. Tens of thousands of people remain displaced.
In Gaza on Tuesday, Belgium’s visiting Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called Gaza’s reconstruction “too slow,” urging Israel to allow in more construction materials. Israel says the flow of goods into Gaza has been increasing gradually since the war.
Reynders also urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli military said that based on “situation assessments,” it would close the crossings out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip until Thursday, barring Palestinians from entering Israel except for humanitarian cases. Israel is marking its Memorial Day and Independence Day during that period.