At least six Israeli soldiers and a driver have been wounded in a shooting on a bus in the occupied West Bank, military authorities and medics said on Sunday.
The incident, in which Israeli authorities said two suspected gunmen were detained as they tried to escape, took place within driving distance of Jenin and Nablus. These two Palestinian cities that have seen months of intensive and deadly Israeli military raids.
Witnesses said Palestinians in a car overtook the bus, spraying it with bullets and, when it came to a halt, tried to torch it. Israeli TV aired footage of a car ablaze after, it said, a fire bomb went off inside.
There was no immediate Palestinian claim of responsibility though.
A spokesman for Hamas praised the attack as “proof that all attempts by the occupation (Israel) to stop the escalating resistance operations in the West Bank have failed”.
The road, where the incident occurred, is dotted with Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages and towns.
Israel occupies the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and has built more than 200 settlements housed with more than half a million settlers.
Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands are considered illegal under international law. The settler expansion is also an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, who seek the territory to be part of their future state.
Matti Carmi, from the Magen David Adom emergency medical services, said “two gunshots victims” were treated outside the bus. The two were conscious and were airlifted to hospital in the Israeli coastal city of Haifa.
Three others were hit with glass fragments and subsequently transferred by road to another hospital in northern Israel, MDA said.
A photograph published by a union representing bus drivers showed the vehicle’s windscreen peppered with bullet holes.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israeli forces “immediately went in pursuit and got their hands on suspects in the attack”.
Sunday’s incident follows a shooting spree last month on an Israeli bus in occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and subsequently annexed, in a step never recognised by the international community.
Eight people, including several American citizens, were wounded in that pre-dawn attack near the Old City of Jerusalem.
Following an hours-long manhunt, police said a suspect had handed himself in.
The incident comes just days after the Israeli army killed two Palestinian men during two separate raids in the West Bank – one in al-Ain refugee camp in Nablus and the other in Umm al-Sharayet, a neighbourhood south of Ramallah and al-Bireh.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces for allegedly attempting to carry out stabbing or car-ramming attacks. Human rights groups accuse Israeli forces of deliberately killing Palestinians even though there is no risk to their lives.