Two people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in the occupied West Bank after Israel unleashed air raids on Lebanon and bombarded the Gaza Strip on Friday, an escalation that sparked fears of a broader conflict after days of violence over Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.
The attack targeted a car on Friday near the illegal Israeli settlement of Hamra in the West Bank’s northern Jericho governate.
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“A shooting attack was carried out on a vehicle at the Hamra Junction. [Israeli army] soldiers are searching the area,” Israel’s military said.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said two women in their 20s were killed and a third in her 40s was seriously wounded.
The attack came hours after Israeli missile attacks on Lebanon and Gaza following an unusually large rocket barrage fired at Israel from southern Lebanon.
The Israeli military said its warplanes struck infrastructure belonging to Palestinian armed groups that it accused of firing the nearly three dozen rockets that slammed into open areas and northern Israeli towns on Thursday.
There were no reports of serious casualties, but several residents of the southern Lebanese town of Qalili, including Syrian refugees, said they were lightly wounded.
“I immediately gathered my wife and children and got them out of the house,” said Qalili resident Bilal Suleiman, who was jolted awake by the bombing.
Daniel Levy, president of the US/Middle East Project, told Al Jazeera the violence is likely to escalate further.
“Endless denial of freedoms and rights for the Palestinians under occupation – living under the repressive Israeli regime – is inevitably going to lead to people taking up whatever forms of resistance – that’s what happens across the board, globally, historically,” said Levy.
The escalation in tensions comes after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on successive days this week, firing stun grenades and attacking Palestinians as they gathered for Ramadan prayers.
The Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon – what analysts described as the most serious border violence since Israel’s 2006 war with the Hezbollah group – threatened to push the confrontation into a dangerous new phase.
Dead were sisters
Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said a helicopter flew in to take the wounded to a hospital.
“One of the women was the driver and when the shooting began she lost control of the vehicle and it hit a man. So two people are dead and two injured, one critically,” Serdar quoted Israeli sources as saying.
“There are reportedly two suspects and a manhunt is under way for them.”
Israeli media reported the dead were sisters from the illegal settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem, and the critically wounded woman was their mother.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai issued a statement calling on Israelis with a firearm license to carry their weapons.
The shooting follows months of heightened violence in the occupied West Bank.
Attacks have surged to record heights there in recent months, with Palestinian health officials reporting the start of 2023 to be the most deadly for Palestinians in at least 20 years.
Nearly 90 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank since the start of the year. During that time, 16 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.