Palestinian kills 2 Israelis in West Bank attack

NEBI QENA Associated Press

Jerusalem — A Palestinian gunman opened fire on Friday, killing an Israeli father and son as they were driving in the West Bank and wounding at least one other person in the car, Israeli officials said, the latest in a nearly two-month rash of violence and almost daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Also Friday, two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops, one near Hebron and the other in the city of Ramallah, Palestinian officials said. A third Palestinian died Friday of wounds sustained in clashes with security forces the previous day.

The West Bank shooting attack killed an Israeli man in his 40s and a youth of about 18 years of age near the city of Hebron, according to Eli Bin from Israel’s emergency services. Israeli media said that the two were father and son.

Dr. Tzvi Perry from Soroka hospital in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba said “five wounded people from the same family” were brought to the hospital. The mother had light injuries to the chest and limbs; a son sustained a gunshot wound in the leg and three young girls had minor scratches, he said.

The military said the attacker fled the scene and that troops were searching the area.

Israel media reported that at least one Palestinian opened fire from the side of the road at a passing car, killing the two Israelis. Israeli media aired footage from the aftermath of the attack, showing a crashed car by the side of the road.

Media said there were seven people in the car, members of the same settler family living in the West Bank who were on their way to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath when they were attacked.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed condolences and vowed to hunt down the attackers. “We will find the despicable murderers and bring them to justice as we have in the past,” he said in a statement. Channel 10 said the attackers used an AK-47 assault rifle and fired at least 14 bullets and that he had accomplices.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility for it.

Hebron, the largest West Bank city, has been a particular flashpoint in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in fortified enclaves in the city, amid tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The military says that over the past month, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks in Hebron alone, including more than 20 stabbings, multiple assaults with cars and other vehicles and several shooting attacks.

Meanwhile, a Hebron hospital said a Palestinian was shot and killed in clashes with Israeli security forces near the city on Friday. Israel’s military said hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tires at soldiers stationed near Hebron who deployed “low caliber fire” at “the main instigators.”

Osama Al-Najjar, the Palestinian Health ministry spokesman, said a second Palestinian was killed Friday in clashes with Israeli military, near Ramallah. The ministry reported that 22 others were wounded in clashes in West Bank. And earlier Friday, a Palestinian died of wounds sustained in clashes the day before.

After Friday prayers in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers on the border. The Gaza health ministry said 17 rock-throwers were hurt from Israeli retaliatory fire. No further details were immediately available.

In all, since mid-September, 14 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, while 81 Palestinians have been killed, including 50 who Israel says were involved in attacks.

Friday’s attack near Hebron was reminiscent of a similar incident in October when Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli couple in front of their four children, including a 4-months-old infant, as the family was driving in the West Bank. Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency later arrested five Palestinians it said were part of a Hamas cell that carried out the attack.

In other developments Friday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his return to the difficult world of Mideast diplomacy, saying he was launching a new initiative to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace as a private citizen.

The initiative will include promoting a 2002 Arab initiative that offered a comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full pullout from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war, working to improve the Palestinian economy and trying to end a split that has left the Palestinians torn between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Blair’s return comes at a difficult time. The Syrian civil war and rise of the Islamic State militant group have largely pushed the Palestinian issue off the international agenda. And a year and half after peace efforts broke down, Israel and the Palestinians have been in the midst of the latest wave of violence.

Israel says the fighting has been fueled by Palestinian incitement while Palestinians say it’s the result of despair over the repeated failure of peace talks and a lack of hope of gaining independence.

Further raising tensions, security camera footage emerged Thursday showing Israeli special forces disguised as Palestinian civilians raiding a hospital to arrest a Palestinian the military said had seriously wounded an Israeli in a knife attack. A cousin of the wanted man was killed during the sweep.

The footage, released by the hospital, showed about a dozen men entering a hospital ward, some wearing fake beards and two dressed as women. About two minutes later, they were seen pushing a man in a wheelchair, presumably the suspect, back down the hallway.

Israeli undercover units are rarely captured in action on camera and the footage has outraged Palestinians.