Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank on Friday, including one who attempted to stab a soldier, as clashes injured more than 100 people in the occupied territory.
Violence on Fridays in the West Bank is a traditional facet of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the fresh unrest comes as Israel is engaged in major hostilities with Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.
Israel’s army said it “neutralised” an assailant who attempted to stab a soldier at a military post in Ofra, north of Ramallah.
The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the man’s death and that of a second man it said was shot dead by Israeli troops near Jenin.
A statement from the Israeli army said troops had fired at “a main instigator” of a “violent riot” by Yaabad, a village near Jenin.
Two more Palestinians wounded by live Israeli fire in clashes in the northern West Bank were pronounced dead shortly later.
There have been daily clashes in the West Bank since Monday, when the conflict in Gaza escalated after the territory’s rulers, Hamas, fired rockets towards Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Friday’s West Bank clashes, affecting multiple locations, had left more than 100 people wounded, including from tear gas and rubber bullets.
A Palestinian security source told AFP that Friday’s unrest was “the most intense since the second intifida,” the uprising that began in 2000.
Amid the surge in West Bank violence, the Gaza conflict raged on Friday, with Israeli forces continuing a bombing campaign in response to Palestinian rocket fire.
Since Monday, more than 1,800 rockets have been at Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups.
Israel has responded with air and artillery strikes on more than 600 targets in the blockaded enclave.
Israeli security forces killed two gunmen and critically wounded a third on Friday after they opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police said.
The exchange of fire at the Salem base outside the northern West Bank town of Jenin was the latest violence in the territory this week, and came as tensions soar in annexed east Jerusalem over an eviction threat hanging over four Palestinian families.
“Three terrorists fired towards the Salem border police base,” a statement from the force said.
Guards returned fire and two of the attackers were pronounced dead, while the third was taken to hospital in Israel in a “critical condition”.
Three firearms and three knives were recovered from the attackers, the border police said. A large supply of ammunition was also found on one of them.
There was no immediate word on the identity of the attackers or any claim of responsibility.
On Sunday, a 19-year-old Israeli was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting at the Tapuah junction bus stop, also in the northern West Bank.
Israeli security forces later announced they had arrested Montasser Shalabi, 44, in the village of Silwad near Ramallah, on suspicion of carrying out the attack.
Palestinian sources said Shalabi is a dual US national.
Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency said Shalabi was not known to belong to any Palestinian militant group.
After his arrest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the security forces for their “swift and determined work that brought to the capture of the despicable terrorist”, and vowed that “Israel’s long arm will reach anyone who harms our citizens.”
On Wednesday, Israeli troops killed a 16-year-old Palestinian when they opened fire on protesters throwing petrol bombs.
The funerals of both youngsters were held on Thursday.
In east Jerusalem, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood near the walled Old City has seen recent clashes between police and protesters, fuelled by a years-long land dispute between Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlers.
Police said they made 15 arrests late Thursday and 11 the previous night. The Red Crescent said 22 Palestinians were injured in the Wednesday night clashes.
The violence came as Palestinian Muslims flocked to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem for the last Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Police said protesters torched a vehicle and threw stones outside a house occupied by Jewish settlers.
Palestinians also traded insults with far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who visited Sheikh Jarrah to voice support for the settlers.
– Possible ‘war crime’ –
The United Nations called on Israel Friday to end any forced evictions in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, warning that its actions could amount to “war crimes”.
“We call on Israel to immediately call off all forced evictions,” UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.
“We wish to emphasise that east Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, in which international humanitarian law applies,” Colville said.
“The occupying power… cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory,” he said, adding that transferring civilian populations into occupied territory was illegal under international law and “may amount to war crimes”.
Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases made when the whole of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel, was under British rule.
The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.
Israeli law allows Jews who can prove pre-1948 title to recover their properties.
It does not afford the same right to Palestinians.
The Sheikh Jarrah families have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities, who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognised by most of the international community.
The district court ruling infuriated Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, who viewed it as a further step in what they see as a Jewish settler effort to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem.
Israel’s Supreme Court is to hold a new hearing in the case on Monday.
Israel’s prime minister on Monday directed authorities to approve construction of 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank days before President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel administration leaves office.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed that plans be advanced for the construction of about 800 units in Judea and Samaria,” a statement from the premier’s office said, using biblical terms for the West Bank.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in next week, has indicated that his administration will restore US policy opposing settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Trump’s administration gave unprecedented US support to settler groups, highlighted by a declaration from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019 that Washington no longer viewed settlements as being in violation of international law.
Pompeo in November also became the first top US diplomat to visit a settlement in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Netanyahu is facing re-election on March 23, Israel’s fourth vote in just under two years.
A series of recent of polls indicate the veteran prime minister is facing a strong right-wing challenge from pro-settler candidate Gideon Saar, who defected from Netanyahu’s Likud party last month to run against the premier.
Netanyahu is widely expected to make a series of plays for right-wing votes, including by bolstering his pro-settlement credentials, before the vote, according to Israeli political analysts.
The statement from Netanyahu’s office said that 100 of the new units were to be built in the Tal Menashe settlement, where French-Israeli Esther Horgen was murdered last month.
Israel’s security services have said the settler was murdered by Palestinian Mohammed Cabha, claiming he had political motives for her killing related to the occupation.
Netanyahu’s order to advance settlement construction is not final, with the process having to clear several bureaucratic phases and possible legal challenges from anti-occupation groups before any construction begins.
There are currently some 450,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, living amid an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians.
All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by much of the international community.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to build 3,500 new settler homes in a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, just a week before a tight general election.
Netanyahu’s controversial statement is the latest in a string of election promises on settlement construction as the premier faces not only a general election but the beginning of a corruption trial.
“I gave immediate instructions for a permit to deposit (plans) for the construction of 3,500 units in E1,” Netanyahu said.
The international community has warned repeatedly that Jewish settlement construction in the E1 corridor, which passes from Jerusalem to Jericho, would slice the West Bank in two and compromise the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
“We are building Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s outskirts,” Netanyahu said at a conference in remarks relayed by a spokesman.
In 2013, Netanyahu vetoed construction in the E1 corridor in the face of pressure from the United Nations, the European Union and the United States.
The move to advance new homes, which would constitute a new neighbourhood of Maale Adumim, a nearby settlement town, were praised by the Yesha Council, a settler lobby group, which noted that plans for homes there have existed since 2004.
“Advancing the issue will enable broad and strategic construction between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem,” Yesha Council head David Elhayani said in a statement.
But Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, co-director of Jahalin Solidarity, an NGO working to prevent the displacement of Palestinian Bedouin living in the E1 area, said the construction could mean their forced expulsion and constitute a “war crime”.
“If allowed to go ahead, this move will end the potential for a viable, sustainable Palestinian state, and is yet another example of how desperate Bibi (Netanyahu) is to buy votes so as to stay out of prison at the expense of our future,” she said.
On Thursday, Netanyahu announced plans for thousands of new homes for Israelis in annexed east Jerusalem, with critics calling the move a last-minute incentive to nationalist voters ahead of next week’s election.
On Monday, Israeli authorities moved ahead with those plans, inviting tenders for 1,077 housing units for Givat Hamatos, which would be a new settlement neighbourhood.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now said the Givat Hamatos area was “the last point enabling territorial continuity between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem,” saying that the plan to build there was proof Netanyahu was “doing everything to prevent peace”.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are considered illegal by the United Nations and most foreign governments.
Netanyahu, 70, will stand trial next month after being indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
He denies wrongdoing but the indictment has complicated his bid to extend his tenure as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
Two elections in April and September last year failed to produce a clear winner.
Recent polls are forecasting another tight race between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and the centrist Blue and White party led by former armed forces chief Benny Gantz.
The United Nations on Tuesday warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his plan to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank if re-elected would have no “international legal effect.”
Netanyahu issued the deeply controversial pledge as he gears up for September 17 elections. He also said Israel would move to annex Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank.
Such moves could effectively kill any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the focus of international diplomacy.
“The secretary-general’s position has always been clear: unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
“Any Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdictions and administration in the occupied West Bank is without any international legal effect,” the spokesman added.
“Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace, and the very essence of a two-state solution.”
The Jordan Valley accounts for around one-third of the West Bank, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War — a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday harshly condemned a vote by Israel’s ruling party in support of annexing large parts of the West Bank and criticised the United States for its silence.
Abbas said the non-binding vote by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Sunday “could not be taken without the full support of the US administration.”
He said in a statement that the White House “has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine.”
“We hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace,” Abbas said.
“Rather its main goal is the consolidation of an apartheid regime in all of historic Palestine.”
The Likud central committee backed a resolution urging Israel to extend sovereignty over all settlement areas in the West Bank and called for unlimited settlement construction.
Netanyahu, who is a member of the central committee, was not present for the vote.
Taking such a measure could effectively end hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as there would be little area left for a Palestinian state.
But a significant number of members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition say that is precisely what they are seeking and openly oppose a Palestinian state.
The prime minister says he still supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, although he has also pushed for Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation for more than 50 years.
Palestinian anger at the US is already high after President Donald Trump last month tore up decades of careful policy to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian who stabbed and wounded a soldier in the West Bank on Saturday, the military said, as a flare-up of a nearly year-old wave of Palestinian street attacks entered a second day.
The soldier was taken to hospital for treatment, the military said.
With most anti-Israeli assaults carried out since October by individuals without any central guiding hand, it was difficult to gauge why violence had surged in the past 24 hours.
The frequency of what had been near-daily attacks had slowed in recent months.
On Friday, Israeli forces shot dead three Arab assailants in separate incidents in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said of Saturday’s attack that during a “routine security check” in the West Bank city of Hebron, an “assailant armed with a knife stabbed an (Israeli) soldier.”
“In response to the immediate threat forces at the scene shot the assailant, resulting in his death,” the spokeswoman said.
Palestinian officials had no immediate comment on the incident.
At least 215 Palestinians have died in violent incidents since October in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Of them, 144 were identified by authorities as assailants while others were killed during clashes and protests.
Palestinians, many of them acting alone and with rudimentary weapons, have killed at least 33 Israelis and two visiting Americans in attacks that have waned in recent months.
Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force and say some of those killed posed no threat or had no intention of attacking anyone. In some cases, Israel has opened investigations into whether excessive force was used.
Four people have been identified dead after Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a popular open-air shopping mall and restaurant in central Tel Aviv.
The Israel Police have confirmed the details of the deceased which include, two women namely Ilana Nave, 39, and Mila Mishayev, 32 – and two men – Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, and Michael Feige, 58.
Authorities said that the attacks took place in two locations in Sarona market, close to Israel’s Defence Ministry and main Army Headquarters.
The attackers came from near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, dressed in suits and ties and posed as customers at an upmarket restaurant before pulling out automatic weapons and opening fire, sending diners fleeing in panic.
Police say the gunmen who have both been apprehended, were from Yatta, a Palestinian village near the west bank town of Hebron. One of them is undergoing surgery in hospital.
Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the scene of the attack called the attack “a savage crime of murder and terrorism”.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault by the two Palestinian gunmen, but Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups were quick to praise it.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Military on Thursday cancelled permits for more than 80,000 Palestinians to visit Israel during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan after the attack.
The attack, as families were enjoying a pleasant evening out at the open-air Sarona complex, was the deadliest in the country’s business and entertainment capital since a wave of Palestinian violence erupted in October last year.