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Soldier Taking Old City Stroll Stabbed by Unidentified Attacker

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She had planned the visit for a long time, but had never gotten around to making it.

On Monday, 19-year-old Dalit Avni, dressed in her army uniform, finally went for a stroll in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Unarmed and unafraid, despite stories about violence there, Avni passed through the Old City walls and waded into the oriental bazaar. She made it as far as the perfume market, when she suddenly felt sharp pains in her back.

An unidentified assailant had stabbed her seven times in the back, stomach, chest and hip. It was the first such attack in East Jerusalem in many months.

Arab shopkeepers who witnessed the stabbing hurriedly locked up and rushed from the scene. None offered to help the young woman, who lay bleeding on the pavement.

An army patrol that happened by summoned an ambulance, which took Avni to Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

She was fully conscious when she arrived. Her wounds were more than superficial, yet not grave.

Doctors said she suffered moderate blood loss and would be released from the hospital after a few days of observation.

Avni could not tell the police much. She had only a fleeting glimpse of the assailant.

Police detained 80 people for questioning. By Monday night, 20 remained in custody.

In her hospital bed, Avni said the assault had not changed her opinion of Arabs. “I can understand them,” she said.

FEW NOW VISIT OLD CITY

The Old City was popular with Israeli visitors until the intifada broke out more than two years ago. Since then, few Israelis venture into the narrow alleys of the Arab neighborhoods.

Soldiers generally go there only on duty and only when armed.

In recent months, violence linked to the intifada has been limited in Jerusalem to arson against Israeli cars and a few unsuccessful gasoline-bomb attacks. Israeli vehicles are stoned as a matter of routine.

Police are now investigating a more serious incident that may have had nationalistic motivations. But they say it also could have been a purely criminal matter.

The case involves a Jewish drug addict, reportedly a prostitute, who was murdered 11 days ago in the Shuafat refugee camp, near the French Hill neighborhood, where she apparently went to buy drugs.

Observers believe the intifada will intensify in Jerusalem as the time approaches to decide whether East Jerusalem Arabs can participate in the proposed Palestinian elections.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is adamantly opposed, on the grounds that allowing them to take part might compromise Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which it annexed after the Six-Day War in 1967.

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