Israeli soldier killed in settlement attack; gunman shot dead

Hamas says attack close to the illegal Kedumim settlement in occupied West Bank was in response to Israel’s Jenin raid.

Israeli soldiers
Israeli soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the illegal Kedumim [Mahmoud Illean/AP Photo]

Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian man after he opened fire near an illegal settlement, killing one Israeli soldier, according to Israel’s army.

Palestinian group Hamas said the attack on Thursday was in response to Israel’s two-day military offensive this week on Jenin.

The Israeli army said the assailant opened fire at security forces who had stopped him near the Kedumim settlement in the occupied West Bank to inspect his vehicle, which they found suspicious. The soldier was declared dead at the scene.

The attacker then fled the scene before he was tracked down and “neutralised”, the army said.

Palestinian news agency Wafa identified the shooter as Ahmad Yasin Hillal Gheithan, from the village of Qibya, west of Ramallah in the West Bank.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a firebrand settler leader, lives in the area of the shooting. Smotrich also oversees planning of settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.

Hamas, which runs the besieged Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for the shooting which it said was carried out by one of its members. “The enemy will know that its massacre in Jenin only increased our people’s insistence on resistance and adherence to its approach until liberation,” the group said.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 12 Palestinians, including three children, were killed in the Israeli army’s aerial and ground operation in the densely populated Jenin refugee camp. One Israeli soldier was also killed.

At least 120 Palestinians were wounded, including 20 who remain in critical condition. About 3,000 were forced to flee their homes.

Palestinian politician Marwan al-Barghouti said the Israeli assault on Jenin – the largest in decades – had left “terrible destruction”, affecting homes and infrastructure.

“They meant to cause harm. In addition to that, they shot at ambulances, people providing first aid and journalists. It was a horrible attack, and it left a very deep scar,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera.

“The Palestinians are very angry about what has happened, and what we are seeing is simply a response by individuals,” he said, referring to Thursday’s shooting.

Barghouti added that the Palestinians were also deeply disappointed and angry at the Palestinian Authority over its security coordination with Israel and lack of sufficient response to the assault.

On Tuesday, a car-ramming and stabbing attack wounded at least seven people in Tel Aviv. The assailant, a Palestinian, was shot dead by an armed civilian, the Israeli army said.

Escalation ‘not the answer’, UN boss says

Meanwhile, the United Nations chief accused Israel of using disproportionate force against Palestinian groups in reference to the assault on Jenin.

“There was an excessive force used by Israeli forces,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York.

Israel has “legitimate concerns over its security”, he said, before adding: “But escalation is not the answer. It simply bolsters radicalisation and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed.”

Guterres called Israeli air raids and ground operations in the crowded refugee camp “the worst violence in the West Bank in many years, with a significant impact on civilians, including more than one hundred injured and thousands forced to flee”.

“Restoring the hope of the Palestinian people in a meaningful political process, leading to a two-State solution and the end of the occupation, is an essential contribution by Israel to its own security,” Guterres added.

He also called on Israel, as an occupying power, to “ensure that the civilian population is protected against all acts of violence”.

The West Bank has seen a more than yearlong spike in violence that has created a challenge for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which is dominated by ultranationalists who have called for tougher action against Palestinians.

More than 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 25 people.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies