A Palestinian man who entered a settlement in the occupied West Bank armed with knives and explosive devices was shot and killed by an Israeli settler on Friday, the Israeli military said, just hours after a Palestinian gunman shot and wounded Israelis in downtown Tel Aviv.
The new violence was the latest to grip Israel and the West Bank in one of the deadliest periods of unrest among Israelis and Palestinians in years.
Hours earlier, Israeli security forces entered the Palestinian village of Naalin and prepared to demolish the family house of the Palestinian suspected of carrying out the shooting in Tel Aviv on Thursday night. The shooter had opened fire near Dizengoff Street in a bustling area of Tel Aviv’s city center and wounded three Israelis, including one critically.
Hamas group claimed the attacker, a 23-year-old former prisoner named Moataz Khawaja, as a member of the organization’s armed wing. Hamas said the shooting came in response to an Israeli military arrest raid that day that killed three gunmen in the northern village of Jaba, along with another raid earlier this week that killed seven Palestinians in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp, including a wanted assailant and a 14-year-old boy.
“We promise more painful strikes throughout our occupied land as long as (Israel's) aggression continues and its crimes escalate,” the Palestinian group said.
Israeli police said Friday they were continuing their investigation into the attack, and that two men from the Israeli town of Ramle, near Tel Aviv, and the Bedouin town of Kuseife, in the Negev desert, had turned themselves in over their alleged smuggling of the gunman and other Palestinians from the occupied West Bank into Israel.
As Israeli forces stormed into Naalin and arrested two family members of the suspected attacker for questioning, they said they were met by a barrage of explosive devices, Molotov cocktails and stones. Israeli troops responded with gunfire, which they said struck at least one Palestinian. The person's condition was unclear.
“Praise God, Moataz is beloved by everyone,” he told reporters. “Any young man who witnesses such massacres will naturally respond.”
Further north, Israeli forces entered the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, home to an emerging armed group that has increasingly attracted young Palestinians angry at Israeli violence and disillusioned by their leadership. Gunmen opened fire, striking an Israeli military vehicle in the city, the army said. Others hurled explosive devices and shot at Israeli forces from a passing car. The Israeli army said it responded with live fire. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.
The past few months have been marked by rising violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the Gaza strip in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek them for a future independent state.
At least 75 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during military arrest raids and other confrontations so far this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Over that same period, a series of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis has left at least 14 Israelis dead so far this year, all but one of them civilians.
The upsurge in deaths has raised fears of a possible greater escalation under Israel's most right-wing government in history, which has pledged tough action against the Palestinians.