Two Israelis have been shot dead south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank by a suspected Palestinian gunman.
Israel’s ambulance service said a 60-year-old man and his 29-year-old son were shot in the Palestinian village of Huwara. Paramedics said the two people were targeted inside a carwash.
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“Both were unconscious and had sustained gunshot wounds to their bodies,” a spokesperson for the ambulance service said.
The Israeli army spokesperson for Arabic media, Avichay Adraee, confirmed two Israelis had been killed.
#عاجل 🛑 شبهة لارتكاب عملية اطلاق نار تخريبية استهدفت عدد من المواطنين الاسرائيليين في منطقة #حوارة وأسفرت عن مقتل مواطنيْن إسرائيلييْن. قوات جيش الدفاع باشرت بملاحقة المشتبه فيهم ونشرت الحواجز في المنطقة pic.twitter.com/xroJz5rO1U
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) August 19, 2023
Translation: Urgent – suspected terrorist shooting attack targeted a number of Israeli citizens in Huwara, leading to the killing of two. The [Israeli military] is tracking suspects and has erected checkpoints in the area.
Israel’s Prime Minister condemned the shooting, saying that “security forces are redoubling their efforts to apprehend the murderer and settle accounts with him, just as we have done with all murderers until now”.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the Israeli army closed key entrances to the main northern West Bank city of Nablus, and soldiers were forcing businesses to close as they searched for the suspect.
In the area, “there has been an intensified military presence for a year now. Huwara has been a flashpoint of a lot of tension. We’ve seen, a month ago, Israeli settlers rampaging through Huwara during the night, burning Palestinian homes,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Bethlehem.
Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif al-Qanou said the attack was the “result of the resistance’s continuous promise to defend our people and respond to the crimes of the occupation”.
The situation in the West Bank has been particularly volatile over the past 15 months with stepped-up deadly Israeli raids and rampages by Jewish settlers on Palestinian villages.
Huwara has been the scene of attacks by Israeli settlers and retribution in the form of Palestinian shooting attacks over the past few months.
“Huwara is located in an area which brings together people who really don’t like each other. On the one hand, the settlers are crossing Route 60 on their way to Israel and the Palestinians are using the same route. It’s a point of friction,” said Akiva Eldar, a political analyst based in Tel Aviv.
Route 60 is the main north-south artery linking Palestinian cities with some of the largest illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Eldar, also a Haaretz contributor, told Al Jazeera what Israeli government ministers such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir “want is for the Palestinians to get out of there and to make their lives so miserable that Israel will not need to build bypass roads”, as a possible solution to the violence.
Bypass roads connect Israeli settlements to each other and to Israel and are reserved for use of Israeli citizens or residents.
But observers say the problem is rooted in Israel’s occupation and cannot be solved merely by creating two separate road systems.
Saturday’s shooting comes the same day a Palestinian man shot by Israeli forces earlier this week during a raid in the occupied West Bank succumbed to wounds.
Mohammed Abu Asaab was “seriously injured in the head” on Wednesday in Balata refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus and died Saturday, Wafa reported.
Abu Asaab was hit during clashes that erupted when Israeli “undercover forces” surrounded a house in the camp, it said.
His death made him the 218th Palestinian killed in violence this year linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prospects of reviving US-brokered peace talks that collapsed almost a decade ago and that aimed to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, remain dim.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967. Excluding annexed East Jerusalem, the territory is home to nearly three million Palestinians and about 500,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.