JERUSALEM - An eight-month-old Palestinian boy died Friday after being exposed to tear gas fired by the Israeli army near his West Bank home, a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry told AFP.

“Ramadan Thawabteh, eight-months-old, died from asphyxiation today after inhaling tear gas, fired by the Israeli army, that entered the house of his family,” the spokesman said. It was not immediately clear if a tear gas grenade had entered the house in the city of Bethlehem or if the gas had seeped in from outside. The tear gas was fired as Israeli soldiers faced off against stone-throwing Palestinian youths in one of a series of clashes that swept the West Bank Friday.

Israel has retroactively legalised some 800 homes in four settlements in the occupied West Bank, the interior ministry said.

They included 377 homes in the Yakir settlement, 187 in Itmar and 94 in Shilo in the northern West Bank, as well as 97 more in Sansana in the south of the occupied Palestinian territory, it said.

The decision was taken two weeks ago, but was only reported in the Israeli press on Friday. It came at a time of heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories, Jerusalem and Israel.

Since the beginning of the month, a wave of attacks against Jews as well as ongoing clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters have left at least 63 Palestinians, including alleged attackers, and nine Israelis dead.

The international community regards all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal, but the Israeli government makes a distinction between those it has authorised and those it has not. The wildcat outposts, often little more than a few caravans, are notorious for housing young Jewish hardliners, referred to in Israel as hilltop youth.

Settlements and outposts are seen as major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land that Palestinians see as part of a future state, and fuel frustration among Palestinian youth. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced major criticism internationally for refusing to halt settlement expansion.

"These aren't new constructions but rather homes built in settlements recognised by Israel in areas that until now didn't have any urban planning," said Hagit Ofran, a spokeswoman for Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem was shaken by its first stabbing in two weeks Friday as violence intensified in the occupied West Bank with fresh clashes and knife attacks in a surge of Palestinian unrest.

A Palestinian stabbed and lightly wounded an American tourist in Jerusalem, where the wave of violence first erupted a month ago over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a highly sensitive site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The 23-year-old Palestinian was shot and severely wounded, while a bystander was injured when security forces opened fire on the assailant, police said.

Jerusalem had been calm in recent days as Israel clamped down on weeks of unrest with a massive boost of security forces and increased checkpoints, but violence has shifted to the occupied West Bank with daily clashes and stabbings.

In the city of Nablus, two Palestinians allegedly tried to stab members of Israeli forces guarding a major checkpoint, and were shot, police said. One died and the other was wounded and arrested.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, in the volatile city of Hebron, hundreds of youths lobbed stones, firebombs and burning tyres at Israeli soldiers who hit back with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to an AFP journalist.

Violent clashes also erupted in Ramallah and Bethlehem as angry youths protested Israeli occupation amid a surge of unrest that has raised fears of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Also in Ramallah a Palestinian hurled a Molotov cocktail at border guards and was shot and wounded, police said.

In the blockaded Gaza Strip, where 17 Palestinians have died in clashes in recent weeks, protesters clashed with Israeli forces along the northern and eastern borders.

Knife attacks, shootings and protests have become near daily occurrences since simmering tensions over the status of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound boiled over.

The violence has left nine Israelis dead.

The death of the latest attacker took the number of Palestinians killed in the recent unrest to 63, including many shot in anti-Israeli protests.

One Israeli Arab attacker has also been shot dead.

For the second week in a row no restrictions were placed on Muslims heading to pray at the Al-Aqsa compound in east Jerusalem.

The site is revered as the holiest in Judaism, known as the Temple Mount, and is the third-holiest site in Islam.

The recent unrest arose amid renewed fears that Israel plans to change the rules governing the site, igniting long-simmering Palestinian anger over decades of occupation and stalled peace efforts.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted he will not change the status quo.

Many of the attackers who have targeted Israeli forces come from the Hebron.

On Friday, dozens of protesters outside the site, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, condemned restrictions on access to the site imposed by Israel, which has split it into a mosque and a synagogue.

Hebron, a city of 200,000 Palestinians, has long been the commercial heart of the occupied West Bank.