Three dead as West Bank violence escalates

Israeli security forces on Thursday raided a West Bank town after three deadly attacks rocked the Jewish state in a week, with two Palestinians shot dead and a third killed after he launched a knife attack on a bus.

The violence comes after a Palestinian armed with an M-16 assault rifle killed five Israeli civilians in the streets of Bnei Brak, an Orthodox Jewish city near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday night.

That shooting took to 11 the number of people killed in the week of violence carried out by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, days before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan begins.

Also read | Israel Police on high alert after 5 killed in Tel Aviv shooting

The latest bloodshed erupted on Thursday morning when the Israeli army said its soldiers returned fire after being shot at during an operation to arrest suspects in the West Bank city of Jenin.

“During the activity, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the troops. IDF troops responded with fire,” the army said in a statement, adding that one soldier was hospitalised.

The Palestinian health ministry said “the Israeli occupation forces” killed two Palestinians, both males aged 17 and 23, in Jenin and another 15 were wounded.

Later on Thursday morning, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli civilian on a bus south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the army said, before “a civilian on the bus shot the terrorist dead.”

Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem said they treated a man aged about 30 for stab wounds to his torso.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the alleged assailant as Nidal Jumaa Jafara, 30.

Also read | Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delays India trip after Covid infection

Islamic Jihad warning 

The Gaza Strip-based secretary general of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad Al-Nakhala, announced in a statement that the group’s armed wing would step up activities “in light of the storming of Jenin camp by the Zionist enemy army”.

The violence has cast a pall ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Last year, clashes in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem escalated into 11 days of bloody conflict between Israel and the Hamas Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Early Thursday, far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir taunted Hamas as he walked the Al-Aqsa compound, which Jews revere as the site of two ancient temples.

Also read | Germany thinks of buying Israeli anti-missile system Iron Dome

“All night Hamas threatened me and said that I was in the line of fire and told me not to come here, I say to the Hamas spokesman shut up,” he said.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. Palestinians seek to end Israel’s rule of those territories and build an independent state on the land.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been frozen for years.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to a Palestinian state, and instead has pursued a policy of economic easements for Palestinians.

Bennett is also a former settler leader and construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has continued unabated, despite his diverse coalition that ranges from nationalists to Israeli doves to an Arab Muslim party.

Nearly half a million Israelis live settlements across the West Bank that are considered illegal under international law.

Watch | The rise in gun attacks in Israel: PM Bennett to convene security cabinet today

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