WEST BANK (AFP): An Israeli religious student was killed and two wounded Thursday when their car came under gunfire near a settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The shooting follows a string of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Israeli Army Lieutenant Colonel Amnon Shefler said the attack took place after 7:00 pm when “terrorists shot at yeshiva students from the side of the road”.
More than 10 rounds were fired at the vehicle, Shefler said, blaming Palestinians.
The army deployed three extra battalions as well as special forces to hunt for the assailants and prevent other hostile acts, Shefler said.
The Magen David Adom rescue service said medics unsuccessfully worked to revive a passenger in the car’s back seat who was unconscious after getting shot.
A spokesperson for the Meir Medical Center in Israel said it was treating two other victims “in their 20s.” One suffered mild injuries to his arm and the second was moderately wounded in his chest.
Shefler said the three young men “were driving outside of the yeshiva from Homesh,” which he said was “an illegal outpost.”
Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since then, nearly 700,000 Israelis have moved into settlements that most of the international community regard as illegal.
The Samaria regional council said in a statement that the victim was Yehuda Dimentman, a married father who lived in the Shavei Shomron settlement and studied at a yeshiva in Homesh.
The shooting occurred in the northern West Bank near the city of Nablus.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said soldiers blocked entrances to Nablus following the attack, leaving hundreds of Palestinian drivers stuck on the roads.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denounced the “horrific” attack, in a statement released by his office.
“Security forces will get their hands on the terrorists very soon and we’ll ensure that justice is served,” he added.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz extended his condolences “to the family of the terror victim killed in Judea and Samaria”, using the Biblical terms for the West Bank.
“We will increase our vigilance and readiness to thwart terror in Judea and Samaria, and will continue to take any measures necessary in facing terror groups in the area.”
It was not clear whether the attack was tied to a militant group. Multiple Palestinian organisations including Hamas, the militant Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the shooting.
“This operation proves once again that our heroic Palestinian people in the West Bank will continue their legitimate struggle until the occupier is expelled from all of our Palestinian land and its settlers are swept away,” the group said in a statement.
– String of attacks –
Last week Israeli police arrested a 14-year-old Palestinian girl on suspicion of stabbing her neighbour, an Israeli Jewish resident of a settlement in a contested neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.
Thursday’s attack also comes as Israel’s ideologically divided coalition government faces internal tension due to the question of violence inflicted by settlers on Palestinians.
Israeli rights group B’tselem reported last month about 450 attacks by settlers on Palestinians since early 2020. In many incidents of settler violence the army stood by or assisted the attackers, the group said.
On Monday Minister of Public Security Omer Bar-Lev said he had discussed “settler violence and how to reduce tensions in the area and strengthen the Palestinian Authority” in a meeting with the US State Department’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
Yigal Dilmoni, head of the Yesha Council settler umbrella group that Bennett once led, said Thursday, “the wild incitement against settlers in Judea and Samaria gives a tailwind to terrorists to carry out these difficult attacks.”
Dilmoni said in a video address that the victim was a student at a religious seminary in Homesh, an illegal outpost that had previously been evacuated by the Israeli government. He called on Bennett to approve the school retroactively in response to the killing.
Palestinians eye the West Bank and east Jerusalem as part of their future state, while hardline Israelis view the areas as a heartland of Jewish history.
Israeli hardliners, including Bennett, oppose Palestinian statehood. The prime minister has said he prefers to ease economic conditions in the Palestinian territories.
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