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Two Palestinians killed in Hebron after soldier stabbed: Army

Soldier wounded in attack at entrance to West Bank city's heavily guarded Jewish settler enclave, according to Israeli army
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian man killed in an alleged stabbing incident in Hebron on 18 March (AFP)

Two knife-wielding Palestinians wounded an Israeli soldier in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday before being shot dead by troops, an Israeli army spokeswoman said.

The stabbing occurred at the entrance to the heavily guarded Jewish settler enclave in the heart of the city, a source of constant tension with its 200,000-strong Palestinian population.

The latest attack came after Israel sealed off the occupied West Bank ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim which started on Wednesday night.

The heightened security measures, which will hinder thousands of Palestinian workers in the West Bank from working inside Israel, will remain in place until Saturday.

Exceptions will be made for humanitarian and medical cases, an army spokeswoman confirmed, adding that the Israeli government had agreed to the closure of the West Bank after an “evaluation of the situation”. No further details were given.

The unusual decision comes amid a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks since October that has left 200 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, two Americans an Eritrean and a Sudanese dead since 1 October, according to an AFP count.

Further restrictions were levied on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, with the general director of the compound telling local media that Palestinian men under the age of 50 were banned from entering to worship.

The compound was shut down on Tuesday and 17 Palestinians were arrested, the director said.

Israel has regularly closed off the West Bank during Jewish holidays such as Passover and Yom Kippur, though less often for Purim.