Two Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders, in near-simultaneous attacks Tuesday that escalated a monthlong wave of violence. Three Israelis and an attacker were killed. The Jerusalem attacks, along with two stabbings in central Israeli city Raanana, marked the most serious outbreak of violence in the current round of tensions. More than 15 people were wounded, many seriously. The violence, coming at a time when peace prospects appear nil, have fueled a sense of panic in Israel and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a new round of heavy violence. Police closed major highways in and out of Jerusalem, while PM Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet.
A police rep said a number of immediate steps were under consideration, including sealing off Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, where many attackers have come from, and making it easier to get gun licenses. Some government ministers have called for even more dramatic measures. The Israeli military says hundreds of Palestinian protesters in Gaza gathered Tuesday near the Israeli border and threw stones and burning tires toward Israeli positions. The army says it is using "riot dispersal means" against the crowd. Israeli security officials said Tuesday's seemingly coordinated attacks indicated the outburst of violence was starting to take on a more organized fashion; they said Israel expects the current wave to last at least a few more weeks. (Read more Israel stories.)