Palestinian militant kills Israeli soldier in West Bank, a day after Israel’s military raid in area

AP  /  July 6, 2023

JERUSALEM – A Hamas militant on Thursday opened fire near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, killing an Israeli soldier, a day after Israeli forces withdrew from the largest military operation in the West Bank in two decades. The Palestinian attacker was shot and killed by Israeli forces, the army said.

The shooting came on the heels of the Israeli withdrawal from the nearby Jenin refugee camp after a two-day offensive meant to crack down on Palestinian militants. The operation destroyed the camp’s narrow roads and alleyways, sent thousands of people fleeing their homes and killed 12 Palestinians. One Israeli soldier also was killed.

Thursday’s shooting near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim raised questions about the effectiveness of the Israeli raid, which came after nearly a year and a half of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed in the area. It also could prompt calls from members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government for additional military incursions.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a firebrand Jewish settler leader, lives in the area of the shooting. Smotrich also oversees planning of settlements in the West Bank.

The Hamas militant group claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying it was a “natural response” to the Jenin incursion. It said the 19-year-old attacker, Ahmed-Yassin Ghaidan, had targeted Smotrich’s settlement.

“The enemy will know that its massacre in Jenin only increased our people’s insistence on resistance and adherence to its approach until liberation,” the group said.

The army said that the shooter opened fire on Israeli forces that had stopped his vehicle for an inspection. The man drove away and was shot dead after a brief chase.

Late Thursday, the army identified the soldier as Staff Sgt. Shilo Yosef Amir.

The West Bank has seen a more than yearlong spike in violence that has created a challenge for Netanyahu’s far-right government, which is dominated by ultranationalists who have called for tougher action against Palestinian militants only to see the fighting worsen.

Over 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 25 people.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.