Israeli-Palestinian violence flares up

Middle East
Israeli police inspect the scene of what the Israeli military said was a Palestinian car-ramming attack in Jerusalem (6 February 2020) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The driver of the car that hit the Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem fled the scene

There has been a flare-up in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, days after US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan.

Three Palestinians were killed during clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank over 24 hours.

Twelve Israeli soldiers were meanwhile hurt in Jerusalem in what the army said was a Palestinian car-ramming attack.

And an Israeli police officer and a soldier were wounded in two shooting attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

There were also further Israeli air strikes on militant sites in Gaza Strip after militants fired mortars into Israel.

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Media captionWhy Trump’s Middle East plan is so divisive

Palestinians have rejected Mr Trump’s proposals, which would leave them with a truncated territory surrounded by Israel and threaded through with Jewish settlements. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed them and vowed to begin annexing parts of the West Bank after March’s general election.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Mr Trump’s plan “caused such escalation and tension by trying to impose fake facts on the ground”.

“We have repeatedly warned that any deal that doesn’t answer the minimum of Palestinian rights and that doesn’t aim to make a just and lasting peace will definitely lead to the tension we are witnessing today,” Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

The militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, said: “The spreading resistance and clashes by our people in the West Bank and their resistance in the heart of occupied Jerusalem is an active response against the destructive Trump deal.”

Later, while visiting security forces in the West Bank, Mr Netanyahu criticised the Palestinian president’s statement, saying: “It won’t help you – not the stabbings, not the car-ramming attacks, not the sniping, and not the incitement.

“We will do everything necessary to protect our security, to define our borders, [and] to ensure our future. We will do it with you or without you.”

Israeli soldiers and police officers were targeted in three attacks on Thursday.

The first took place shortly before 02:00 local time (00:00 GMT) near the First Station entertainment venue in central Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said a “Palestinian rammed his car” into a group of soldiers who were marching along a pavement towards the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, for an induction ceremony.

One of the soldiers was seriously hurt and required surgery at the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, while the others were lightly injured.

The driver fled the scene and the car was later found abandoned near Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem.

On Thursday afternoon, the military announced that the driver had been arrested by an special unit of the Israeli police at the Gush Etzion Junction, south of Bethlehem, and handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning. Israeli media said he was a resident of occupied East Jerusalem.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An Israeli police officer was shot and wounded in Jerusalem’s Old City

Hours after the car-ramming attack, a man opened fire at several Israeli police officers stationed near Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, wounding one of them in the hand, a police spokesman said.

“The terrorist himself was shot and neutralised at the scene,” he added.

Israeli media reported that the assailant died and identified him as an Israeli Arab resident of the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the officers for acting “quickly, determinedly and professionally” and said Israeli security forces would “act in any way possible to thwart the plans by the terror groups to escalate tensions”.

In the third attack, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in a drive-by near the Jewish settlement of Dolev, north-west of the West Bank city of Ramallah. The assailant fled the scene and a manhunt is continuing.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palestinian medics said policeman Tareq Badwan was killed by Israeli fire in Jenin

Meanwhile, two Palestinians were killed in the northern West Bank town of Jenin early on Thursday.

Palestinian medics said Yazan Abu Tabikh, 19, was shot during clashes that erupted when Israeli troops demolished the home of a man convicted of involvement in the killing of a rabbi in 2018.

The Israeli military said its forces “identified a number of armed terrorists who hurled explosive devices and fired towards them”.

“The forces responded with riot dispersal means,” it added.

Abu Tabikh’s uncle told Reuters news agency: “Young men went out to the streets, the same way they do with every demolition that takes place. Clashes started and the Israelis started to shoot.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Clashes erupted in Jenin as Israeli forces demolished the home of a convicted militant

Hours later, Palestinian medics said a Palestinian police officer had also died after being hit by Israeli gunfire.

Palestinian security officials said Tareq Badwan, 25, was shot while inside the courtyard of a police station that was close to where the clashes occurred.

Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said it was investigating Badwan’s death.

“The specific situation is unclear,” he told reporters. “Whether he fired at Israeli troops and then they retaliated and he was injured, or somebody else fired at Israeli troops and they retaliated and he was caught in the middle.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israeli aircraft struck Hamas positions in Gaza overnight after militants fired mortars at Israel

On Wednesday a 17-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed al-Haddad, was shot and killed by Israeli forces in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The Israeli military said that there had been a “violent riot”, during which “troops identified a Palestinian who hurled a Molotov cocktail at them”. “The troops responded with fire in order to remove the threat,” it added.

Witnesses told AFP news agency that about 15 protesters had thrown stones at the troops.

Israeli warplanes also struck a number of Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip early on Thursday, including an underground complex and a maintenance facility, after mortars and balloons loaded with explosives were launched towards Israel, the Israeli military said.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

On Wednesday, the military said 13 rockets had been fired from Gaza in a week.

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