Israeli military kills Palestinian gunman as settlers rampage through Palestinian town

The events capped a bloody week in the West Bank that left 16 Palestinians and four Israelis dead

A Palestinian woman sits outside her torched home, days after it was set on fire by Jewish settlers, in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, Saturday, June 24, 2023.
A Palestinian woman sits outside her torched home, days after it was set on fire by Jewish settlers, in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, Saturday, June 24, 2023.Mahmoud Illean (AP)

A Palestinian assailant opened fire at an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank on Saturday before being shot and killed, Israeli police said. Elsewhere in the occupied territory, settlers rampaged through a Palestinian village, hurling stones, spraying bullets and setting fire to homes, the latest in a series of settler attacks this week.

The Palestinian gunman approached Israeli troops stationed at the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Jerusalem early in the morning, pulled out an M16 rifle and opened fire, the Israeli police said.

Israeli security forces said they shot back, killing the suspected assailant. According to the Israeli rescue service, two security guards in their 20s were hospitalized with minor wounds — at least one from bullet fragments. There was no immediate word on the attacker’s identity.

Later on Saturday, residents of the Palestinian village of Umm Safa said that some 50 Israeli settlers armed with rifles and flammable liquid stormed through the streets and tried to set fire to at least five homes with people inside. The Israeli military said it sent security forces to the scene and arrested an Israeli citizen.

Palestinian rescue teams said they evacuated small children who were suffocating and trapped inside a burning house.

Some settlers also opened fire at civilians and medics. A local station, Palestine TV, said settlers fired at Mohammed Radi, its correspondent covering the attacks, shattering his camera. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that one of its medics was wounded by gunfire.

Another two medics were wounded when settlers threw a large rock at an ambulance, which crashed through the windshield.

Israeli settlers also shot and killed a horse in the village, said resident Ibrahim Ebiat. “This is pure terror,” he said. “People are scared and angry.”

Young Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli security forces who opened fire and unleashed tear gas at them, witnesses said. The Israeli military said it was “working to disperse the friction.” One soldier was wounded by a thrown stone, it said, denouncing the violence.

The head of the Israeli opposition, Yair Lapid, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “condemn this disgrace and deal with it properly.”

“Settler violence has crossed every line,” he said.

Top Israeli security officials condemned the settler violence late Saturday.

“They constitute, in every way, nationalist terrorism, and we are obliged to fight them,” Israel’s military chief, police chief and the head of the Shin Bet internal security agency said in a joint statement. They said the army will divert security forces to prevent further rampages while the Shin Bet will carry out an increased number of arrests.

“We call on the leaders and educators in the communities to publicly denounce these acts of violence and to join the effort to fight against them,” they said. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issued a separate statement condemning the settler violence.

The events capped a bloody week in the West Bank that left 16 Palestinians and four Israelis dead.

An hourslong gun battle between Israeli security forces and Palestinian militants in the northern Jenin refugee camp killed seven Palestinians and wounded eight Israeli soldiers earlier this week. Two Palestinian gunmen then killed four Israeli civilians at a gas station before being shot and killed.

Then, a rare Israeli airstrike by a pilotless drone killed three Palestinian militants in a car. Israeli settler attacks in revenge for the deadly Palestinian shooting left one Palestinian dead, many wounded and a trail of destruction through Palestinian towns.

The settler violence has drawn international criticism, including from Israel’s closest ally, the United States. In a conversation with his Israeli counterpart, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed “deep concern” over the settler violence, the White House said. “He reiterated the importance of holding accountable those responsible for such acts of violence.”

On Saturday, Palestinian health officials also said that a 39-year-old man, Tariq Idris, died of wounds sustained in confrontations with Israeli security forces in the northern city of Nablus the day before. The Israeli military had raided Nablus to arrest three suspected Palestinian militants and fired at residents who shot at them and threw Molotov cocktails, it said.

The spiraling violence has increased pressure on Netanyahu’s far-right government, with its hard-liners calling for a broad military operation against Palestinian militants, as well as on the Palestinian Authority, which has come under criticism for failing to protect Palestinian civilians.

This year has been one of the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank in years. At least 137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem so far in 2023, according to a tally by The Associated Press, nearly half of them affiliated with militant groups. As of Saturday, 24 people on the Israeli side have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them civilians.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.

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