Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in separate operations over the past 24 hours in the occupied West Bank, with the Israeli army announcing the city of Ramallah a closed military zone.
The closure was announced following a shooting attack near the illegal settlement of Ofra east of Ramallah. Two Israeli soldiers were killed by an unknown Palestinian. According to local news agencies, the Palestinian fled the scene in his car.
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In a statement, the Israeli army said it is carrying out searches near the areas of the roads entering and exiting Ramallah.
The Hamas movement, which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, saluted the shooting and in a statement said it proved “resistance” was still alive in the West Bank.
“The flame of resistance in the West Bank will remain alive until the Israeli occupation is defeated from the entirety of our land, and we regain our full rights,” Hamas said.
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to legalise thousands of Jewish settlement homes in the occupied West Bank that were built without Israeli permits.
He also vowed to expedite the demolition of the Palestinian attackers’ homes within 48 hours, increase detentions of Hamas members already in Israeli prisons and beef up Israeli forces in the region.
“Our guiding principle is that whoever attacks us and whoever tries to attack us – will pay with his life,” he said. “Our enemies know this and we will find them.”
The first of the killings came overnight on Wednesday when Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in separate operations over the span of six hours. They were suspects in alleged attacks on Israelis.
In the pre-dawn hours on Thursday, Israeli forces also shot dead a Palestinian accused of killing two settlers in the West Bank last October, following a two-month manhunt.
Ashraf Naalweh, 23, was killed during the arrest raid in Askar refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus Earlier, according to Palestinian security sources. The army has withheld his body.
In another overnight raid on a West Bank village, Israeli forces shot dead Salah Omar Barghouti, who was suspected to be behind a drive-by shooting on Sunday, in which seven Israeli settlers were wounded near the Ofra settlement.
Wafa said the 29-year-old Barghouti was driving his cab when Israeli soldiers opened fire at his vehicle near Surda, north of Ramallah, and that undercover Israeli forces seized his body.
Army units raided the Barghouti residence in the village of Kobar, north of Ramallah, and arrested his father and brothers, Wafa reported.
In the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man, Majd Muteir, after he injured two Israeli police officers in an alleged stabbing attack before dawn. One of the officers was moderately injured, the other lightly.
Israeli forces prevented Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for dawn prayers and were heavily present in the streets of the Old City.
The fourth Palestinian was killed on Thursday afternoon, after an alleged car ramming attempt on a group of soldiers in Ramallah’s twin city of al-Bireh.
The man was identified as 60-year-old Hamdan Tawfiq al-Ardah.
‘Serious security situation’
Speaking from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said the events in the past 24 hours have been “very bloody – one that the occupied West Bank hasn’t seen for a good deal of time”.
“We have the pretty extraordinary circumstance of the entire city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in Area A – where Palestinian administration is supposed to have at least nominal authority – has been sealed off as a closed military zone,” he added.
Regarding the alleged car ramming attack, Fawcett said that the official Palestine TV reported that “it might not have been a deliberate attack, [but] there might have been a loss of control instead.”
He added, “It’s certainly a very serious security situation that is still prevailing in the occupied West Bank.”
A total of 56 Palestinians across the West Bank and Jerusalem were also arrested by the Israeli army early Thursday morning.
In the aftermath of the overnight killings, dozens of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian vehicles with rocks on the busy Route 60 highway, south of Nablus.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 69 Palestinians were injured in protests against the Israeli army raids into Ramallah and various other towns and villages in the West Bank.
Undercover Israeli forces posing as Palestinians, known as Mustaribeen, were seen by locals roaming the streets of Beiteen village, northwest of Ramallah.
The closures in the West Bank has led to Fatah, the ruling party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to announce their offices will be open for those who are unable to reach their homes.
Additional reporting by Ibrahim Husseini