According to Palestinian witnesses, an armed fighter opened fire on a group of soldiers guarding the entrance to the Ibrahimi mosque on Monday before making his escape to the Casbah market.

 

The witnesses said one of the soldiers sustained serious injuries.

 

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack which comes a few weeks after Israeli occupation soldiers shot and killed a 14-year-old boy in the vicinity of the mosque.

 

A young Palestinian woman was also shot and seriously wounded by Israeli soldiers in the same area nearly two weeks ago.

 

The incident disrupts a period of relative calm in the occupied territories restored after Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed on a ceasefire at the 8 February summit conference at Sharm al-Shaikh in Egypt.

 

Peace talks frozen

 

Ten days ago, a Palestinian bomber detonated explosives he was carrying outside the entrance to a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing five Israelis, including three members of an elite Israeli army unit serving in the West Bank, who were attending a party at the time

 

The Tel Aviv bombing has stalled
crucial Abbas-Sharon talks

The Israeli government accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of not doing enough to rein in "terrorists" and temporarily froze contacts with Palestinian officials.

 

However, PA President Mahmud Abbas, while strongly condemning the bombing, argued that Palestinian security forces could not be responsible for security in areas tightly controlled by the Israeli army, such as Tulkaram, from which the Tel Aviv bomber is believed to have come.

 

Hebron massacre

 

Hebron has been the scene of much violence in the past few decades.

 

In 1994, a Jewish settler from the nearby illegal settlement of Kiryat Araba killed 29 Palestinian worshipers who were praying at the Ibrahimi mosque, where the biblical patriarchs are believed to have been buried.

 

Following the massacre, the Israeli army adopted a stringent policy towards the Palestinians in the old town, including imposing severe, open-ended curfews lasting for weeks, forcing thousands of inhabitants to move to other parts of the city.