American killed in Tel Aviv stabbing spree as Biden visits

Daphne Rousseau
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Israeli security forces stand at the scene of a stabbing attack on March 8, 2016 in the neighbourhood of Jaffa in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv as US vice president arrived in the city for a visit

Israeli security forces stand at the scene of a stabbing attack on March 8, 2016 in the neighbourhood of Jaffa in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv as US vice president arrived in the city for a visit (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

Tel Aviv (AFP) - A Palestinian went on a stabbing spree along the Tel Aviv waterfront Tuesday leaving an American tourist dead and 12 people wounded, police said, as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the city.

The attacker, around 21 years old, was from the town of Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank and was shot dead by police, Israeli authorities said.

Video showed a man running down a road and lunging at someone through a car window while being chased.

The attack caused panic, and one witness told Israeli television he hit the assailant with his guitar, with a hole visible in the wood of his instrument.

Police said the attacker wounded a number of people in the Jaffa port area, a tourist zone of Israel's commercial capital, before going on toward a restaurant and stabbing others.

Around a 15-minute walk from where the stabbings occurred, Biden met former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Biden "condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal attack which occurred in Jaffa during his meeting with president Peres, and commented that there is no justification for such acts of terror," his office said.

"He expressed his sorrow at the tragic loss of American life and offered his condolences to the family of the American citizen murdered in the attack, as well as his wishes for a full and quick recovery for the wounded."

One woman at the scene said "I heard two guys screaming that there was an attack."

"I ran in the opposite direction and ran into a man who was on the ground in his blood," said the woman, who gave her name as Emily.

She said she "covered him with my jacket. He was badly injured and we waited together for the ambulances to come."

The US State Department identified the dead American as Taylor Allen Force, a 29-year-old native of Texas and a US army veteran, and denounced the attack.

- Wave of violence -

Violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories since October has killed 184 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

Others were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes or demonstrations.

Biden is due to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday.

When meeting Peres on Tuesday, he spoke of an "unvarnished, complete commitment to the security of Israel. And I hope we will make some progress."

The White House has said Biden will not be pursuing any major new peace initiatives during his visit despite the wave of violence.

The number of attacks had diminished recently, but there were four separate assaults Tuesday.

Two occurred in Jerusalem, including one that saw a Palestinian shoot and seriously wound two Israeli police officers before being shot dead.

Earlier, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab Israeli police forces in Jerusalem's Old City before being shot dead.

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian stabbed an ultra-Orthodox Jew in a liquor store in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv.

The victim and owner of the shop pounced on the attacker, seized his weapon and killed him, police said.

Police said they suspected it was a "terrorist" attack but had not excluded other possible motives.

Before Tuesday's violence, Biden's visit had been overshadowed by a new blow to the rocky relationship between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's decision not to accept an invitation for talks with Obama in Washington later this month "surprised" the White House, which first learned of it through news reports.

Biden's visit comes with Obama having acknowledged there will be no comprehensive agreement between Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office in January 2017.

- Expecting 'nothing' -

Talks are expected to include discussions on a defence aid package, currently worth some $3.1 billion annually in addition to spending on projects such as missile defence.

Biden and Netanyahu also plan to talk about the fight against the Islamic State group.

But while Obama has resigned himself to not achieving any major breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been suggestions he may seek to somehow kick-start peace efforts at a complete standstill for two years.

That has included speculation the United States could break with traditional practice and support a UN resolution related to resolving the conflict, which Israel strongly opposes.

The United States has traditionally vetoed resolutions at the UN Security Council opposed by Israel.

After his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Biden will travel to Jordan.