Al-Jazeera / June 20, 2023
The shooting carried out by two Palestinians took place near the illegal Jewish settlement of Eli and came a day after a deadly Israeli raid in Jenin.
At least four Jewish settlers have been killed in a shooting by two Palestinian gunmen near an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank – a day after a deadly raid carried out by Israeli troops.
Four other settlers were wounded on Tuesday, two seriously, in the attack near Eli in the northern West Bank, the Magen David Adom emergency services said in a statement.
One of the gunmen was shot dead at the scene and Israeli forces later killed the second suspect near Nablus after he fled in a taxi. The Israeli military said a civilian “neutralized” one gunman.
Al-Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, confirmed the deadly attack. “Suspects opened fire into a gas station” near the entrance of the Eli settlement between Ramallah and Nablus, he said.
The Israeli military said the gunmen arrived by car and opened fire on a restaurant, and then targeted the petrol station. One of the attackers “stole a running vehicle and fled the area”, said Khan.
The Palestinians were identified as Mohannad Faleh Shhadeh (26) and Khaled Mostafa Sbah (24), both from the village of Urif near Nablus.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant convened the country’s army chief and other top security officials to discuss a response to the shooting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right allies have been calling for a large-scale military operation in the occupied West Bank for months now. Netanyahu later issued a stern threat.
“We have proven in recent months that we take revenge on all murderers, without exception. Whoever harmed us will either end up in the grave or in prison. This is what will happen in this case as well,” said the Israeli leader.
The shooting came a day after six Palestinians were killed in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank during a large-scale Israeli military incursion. At least 91 people were wounded during the nine-hour raid.
The fighting saw Israel use helicopter gunships in the West Bank for the first time in several years, and Palestinian fighters detonated a large roadside bomb under an Israeli armoured vehicle.
Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas, the group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, described Tuesday’s shooting as a “response to the crimes of the [Israeli] occupation” in Jenin and elsewhere.
Hamas later said one of the shooters was a member of its armed wing.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad also commended the attack, saying it was a natural response to growing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
The armed group said it considered the shooting to be part of Palestinians’ “legitimate right to exercise self-defence”.
Hours after the attack, Jewish settlers streamed through Palestinian towns, trying to torch property and smashing cars with stones. A few settlers opened fire at Palestinians who had ventured out of their homes to confront them, said Nablus official Ghassan Daghlas.
Dozens of Palestinians were attacked and wounded by rocks throughout the Nablus governorate, he said, including a Palestinian journalist struck in the face. Videos shared online showed giant fires tearing through the countryside.
Israel has been conducting near-daily raids and killings of Palestinians in the West Bank since June 2021 in an attempt to crack down on a growing armed resistance.
US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and show no sign of revival.
Israel’s hard-right government is set on expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, which was captured in the 1967 Middle East War and where Palestinians exercise limited self-governance under Israeli military rule.
A member of a UN-mandated independent commission of inquiry said on Tuesday that increasing Jewish settler violence in the occupied West Bank was a “major concern” and announced plans to investigate further.
“We are very disturbed that violent settler activity has considerably increased in the last months and it’s .. . becoming, in fact, the means through which [Israeli] annexation is insured,” said Miloon Kothari, a member of a Commission of Inquiry, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.
“As long as the occupation continues, the United Nations needs to continue to rigorously investigate the situation and, therefore, we would like to see a sunset of the Israeli occupation.”
‘Take down buildings’
In 2022, Israeli forces killed more than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in what was described as the deadliest year for Palestinians living in those areas since 2006.
Since the start of 2023, Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians, including 26 children.
Jewish settlements, illegal under international law, house between 600,000 and 750,000 Jewish settlers across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, despite Palestinians seeking the land as part of a future state.
Earlier on Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Israel to immediately “cease all settlement activities” in occupied Palestinian territory, describing Israel’s plans to advance the building of settlements as driving “tensions and violence” and being a major obstacle to a lasting peace.
Netanyahu’s government includes members who rule out a Palestinian state, while Hamas rejects co-existence with Israel.
From the scene of Tuesday’s attack, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded the government launch “targeted assassinations from the air”, “take down buildings”, deport Palestinian assailants, and impose the death penalty on “terrorists”.
SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES