Two Israelis killed in occupied West Bank attack

Israel’s military says a gunman ‘opened fire towards an Israeli vehicle’ at a junction near the city of Nablus.

A Palestinian gunman has killed two Israelis in their car in the occupied West Bank, sparking violence in which a Palestinian man was shot dead as Israeli settlers torched homes in Palestinian villages.

The latest deaths came amid talks in Jordan to discuss worsening violence in the occupied territory, and days after Israeli forces launched their deadliest raid on the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians dead in the city of Nablus.

Sunday’s attack on the two settlers, brothers in their 20s who lived in a settlement about 8km (5 miles) away, took place on the main road in Hawara, just south of Nablus.

A joint statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Sunday said, “two Israeli civilians were killed in a Palestinian terror attack”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Late on Sunday, Israeli media reported clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers near Hawara. Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the settlers “set fire to several Palestinian-owned houses” in villages near Nablus.

A 37-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by a settler in Zaatara village near Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The Israeli army did not immediately comment but said it had evacuated dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Hawara because they were threatened by fire.

Ghassan Daghlas, an official in charge of anti-settlement activities, said several Palestinian houses and 15 cars had been set on fire.

Abdullah al-Huwari, a witness, told the AFP news agency that “large numbers of settlers attacked the village of Hawara”, setting fire to homes and cars.

“I see in front of me flames,” the 36-year-old said. “Wherever I turn my eyes, I see the flames of a burning house.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog issued a “forceful condemnation”.

“Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting, and committing violence against innocents — this is not our way,” Herzog said.

The Palestinian Red Cross said 98 people were treated, most after inhaling tear gas, while Israeli emergency services reported three Israelis injured after being hit by stones.

Netanyahu, in a video released by his office, called for calm.

“I ask — even when the blood is boiling — not to take the law into one’s hands,” Netanyahu said, calling for the security forces to “be allowed to carry out their work”.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “protecting terrorist acts perpetrated by settlers” in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians wait as Israeli security forces search vehicles at the Hawara checkpoint.
Palestinians wait as Israeli security forces search vehicles at the Hawara checkpoint [Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP]

Israel looks for suspect

Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Israeli forces were searching for the gunman who killed the two Israelis.

“Israeli security forces closed down some of the checkpoints and they are still looking for the person who carried this [attack] out,” she said.

Israel’s defence minister, meanwhile, called for beefing up the military presence in the occupied West Bank.

An Israeli ministerial committee also gave initial approval to a proposal that would impose the death penalty on Palestinians involved in deadly attacks. The measure was sent to legislators for further debate.

“On a difficult day in which two Israelis were murdered in a Palestinian terror attack, there is nothing more symbolic that passing the death penalty law on terrorists,” said Ben-Gvir, who is from the far right and himself a West Bank settler.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, another settler leader, called for “striking the cities of terror and its instigators without mercy, with tanks and helicopters, in a way that conveys that the master of the house has gone crazy”.

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said the presence of settlers within the Israeli government had made the situation even more difficult for Palestinians.

“The only way I can describe it is that this is behaviour of fascist gangs who are the Israeli settlers, protected and supported by the Israeli army,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera from Ramallah. “The fate of the Palestinian people is in the hands of illegal settlers. They are attacking and shooting people left and right and the Israeli army is doing nothing to stop them.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad heralded Sunday’s shooting in Hawara as a “heroic operation”.

“It sends a strong message to the Aqaba summit that our [Palestinian] resistance is present,” said Islamic Jihad, which had joined Hamas and other Palestinian groups in opposing the Jordan talks.

Sunday’s shooting attack comes amid rising tensions across the occupied West Bank following the Israeli military raid in Nablus.

According to Palestinian figures, at least 65 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of this year.

On Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian representatives were holding talks in Jordan, according to state media in the kingdom, in a “political-security” meeting aiming to restore calm after deadly violence.

Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka said the meeting, which kicked off in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, was “the first of its kind in years between Palestinians and Israelis with regional and international participation” and would address “the situation in the Palestinian territories”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies