Palestinian youth and Israeli guard killed in West Bank

A Palestinian man confronts Israeli soldiers during a protest against a new settler outpost in Beit Dajan in the occupied West Bank (AFP)

The National  /  April 30, 2022

Killings follow weeks of heightened Palestinian-Israeli tensions at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

A Palestinian man and an Israeli guard were killed in the occupied West Bank following further violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during which dozens of Palestinians were injured.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces fatally shot a 27-year-old man in the chest during an operation in Azoun village near the town of Qalqilya early on Saturday.

Separately, gunmen killed a guard at the entrance to the Ariel settlement before fleeing the scene, the Israeli army said.

The military had launched a hunt for the attackers, who it called terrorists.

The killings come amid heightened tensions at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City during Ramadan.

Hundreds of worshippers have been injured by rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas fired by Israeli police, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Similar violence last year contributed to the start of an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

The group said the killing of the settlement guard was a “heroic operation”. Spokesman Hazem Qassem said it was a response to the “attacks on Al-Aqsa”.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said more than 40 people were wounded at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday, with 22 requiring treatment in hospital.

It said Israeli forces prevented first responders from entering the compound during the operation and that one of its medics was beaten by police.

Israeli police said officers “were forced to enter” the compound to disperse “rioters” who were throwing stones and fireworks.

No injuries were reported among the heavily armed officers.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. The site is in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed, a move that is not recognized by most of the international community.

Palestinians say the presence of Israeli police at the compound and regular visits by Jews are a breach of decades-old informal arrangements governing the site. The visits were halted for the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Palestinian-Israeli tensions were already high before the start of Ramadan owing to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and Israeli army raids in the West Bank.

Twelve Israelis, including an Arab-Israeli police officer, and two Ukrainians were killed in four separate attacks in Israel. Two of the attacks were carried out in the Tel Aviv area by Palestinians.

A total of 27 Palestinians and three Arab Israelis have died during the same period, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations, AFP reported.

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Israel searches for Palestinian attackers who killed guard

AP  /  April 30, 2022

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military on Saturday launched a manhunt in the northern West Bank as it searched for a pair of Palestinian attackers who shot and killed a security guard at the entrance of a Jewish settlement.

The fresh attack, combined with the death of a Palestinian man elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, could further fuel tensions that have soared over the past two months. A string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 15 Israelis dead, while at least 27 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in recent weeks.

The security guard was shot outside Ariel, a major settlement in the northern West Bank, late Friday night by a pair of assailants in a car, the army said. It said the guard stood in front of another guard who was with him, saving her life.

Israeli forces on Saturday set up checkpoints and were conducting searches for the attackers in the area, the army said. It said it arrested two purported members of the Hamas militant group, but there was no immediate indication that the men were involved in the attack. Hamas praised the killing of the guard but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the shooting.

In a separate incident, Israeli troops shot and killed a 27-year-old Palestinian man in Azoun village near the town of Qalqilya early Saturday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The army said it had opened fire after a group of suspects threw firebombs toward the soldiers.

Tensions have been heightened in recent weeks by Palestinian shooting attacks in Israeli cities, an Israeli military crackdown in the northern West Bank, where some of the attackers came from, and recurring confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police around the most sensitive religious site in Jerusalem.

The site contains Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and increasing numbers of Palestinians go there to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The hilltop compound is also the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was where the biblical Temples were situated.

The site is a frequent flashpoint of tensions, and violence there last year helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.

In recent weeks, Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed there on a number of occasions, including Friday morning. Israeli authorities accuse Hamas of inciting violence and say security forces were forced to intervene to halt stone-throwing.

The Palestinians say the presence of Israeli police at the site, and regular visits by increasing numbers of nationalist and religious Jews, are a violation of decades-old informal arrangements governing the site. The visits were halted last week for the last 10 days of Ramadan, which concludes this weekend.