Israel policeman badly hurt in stabbing, shoots attacker

Jerusalem (AFP) - A Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli border policeman outside Jerusalem's Old City Sunday, with the officer managing to shoot his attacker, leaving him in a very serious condition.

It was the latest in a string of lone-wolf attacks which have gripped the city and spread to the West Bank in the past nine months, which the security forces have been largely powerless to prevent.

It came two days after a Palestinian shot dead an Israeli hiker near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The latest incident took place outside Damascus Gate, the bustling main entrance to the walled Old City from the commercial heart of Arab east Jerusalem.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the attacker was a Palestinian aged around 18 who came from the West Bank but gave no further details on his identity, citing a court gag order.

She said he had attacked the policeman from behind, stabbing him in the neck.

"The border police officer, who was very seriously wounded, managed to see the terrorist, fired at him and wounded him critically," she said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem, where the officer was being treated, said his condition had stabilised after surgery and while he was still sedated and on a respirator, his life was no longer in danger.

The attacker was being treated at Hadassah hospital, which said he too was sedated and on a respirator after surgery, and "in a very serious condition".

Palestinian sources said Israeli forces raided a home the West Bank village of Siir but did not make any arrests.

A West Bank-based spokesman for Hamas, the militant Islamist movement that rules Gaza, praised the stabbing as "heroic" and evidence of the perpetrator's "courage" since he carried out the attack in an area bristling with Israeli police.

- Policeman praised -

Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri praised the officer involved.

"The quick response of the victim, who was himself seriously wounded, brought an immediate end to the incident and prevented harm to other innocents," he said in a statement.

"Jerusalem police is prepared for any event and we are deploying a large force on the ground to ensure the safety of residents."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also hailed the policeman's actions, and urged people to come and visit the city in a show of solidarity.

"I call on all Israeli citizens to continue visiting Jerusalem and to strengthen it. This is the message we sent to the terror which tries to disrupt our lives."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praised the officer's "heroism and determination" in a conversation with his commander.

"The relative quiet in Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank) should not fool anyone. There are attempts to carry out attacks all the time and sometimes, some of them are successful," he said.

Later Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said that following they were cancelling all entry permits to Israel for Palestinians from Siir, and taking back the permission for 500 West Bank residents to fly via Israel's Ben Gurion airport.

Israel recently relaxed a series of restrictions on the movement of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians to and from Israel to mark the holy fasting month of Ramadan which began last week, citing the relative security lull and good cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

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