Two British sisters [Jewish settlers] killed and mother injured in West Bank shooting

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  April 7, 2023

Sisters, believed to have migrated from the UK, died after car was shot at and crashed on Friday.

Two sisters with British nationality have been killed and their mother seriously injured in a shooting attack in the occupied West Bank, keeping the region on edge even as the situation on Israel’s borders appeared to ease after Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip overnight.

The sisters were killed when their car crashed after it was shot at in the north of the territory on Friday, Israeli media reported. Local authorities said they were 16 and 20 years old, and their mother 48. The family have not yet been officially named due to a pause in some Israeli police procedures for the Jewish holy day, Shabbat.

The mayor of the illegal Israeli West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat, where the family live, said they had migrated from the UK and that the sisters’ father had been driving ahead of them in another vehicle when their car came under attack.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We are saddened to hear about the deaths of two British-Israeli citizens and the serious injuries sustained by a third individual. The UK calls for all parties across the region to de-escalate tensions.”

The Israeli army has launched a search for suspects in the area.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the blockaded Gaza Strip, praised the shooting, but did not claim responsibility. Israel’s police commissioner called on citizens with gun licences to start carrying their weapons after the attack.

The attack near the settlement of Hamra in the Jordan valley comes against a backdrop of fears of a broader Middle East escalation drawing in the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Those worries peaked in the early hours of Friday morning, after Israel bombed sites in Gaza and Lebanon in response to rocket fire blamed on Palestinian militants from the two territories.

About 34 projectiles – the biggest salvo of rockets fired towards Israel from Lebanon since the 2006 war with Hezbollah – set air raid sirens blaring across the north of the country. Most were intercepted, but two people were injured.

In the south, there has been tit-for-tat cross-frontier fire with Gaza since early Wednesday, after 12 Palestinians were injured and hundreds arrested in an Israeli police raid on Jerusalem’s sacred Al-Aqsa compound. In a statement, police said officers were forced to storm the prayer hall after what it called masked agitators barricaded themselves inside.

Video footage of police beating Palestinian worshippers with batons and the butts of rifles at the third holiest site in Islam during Ramadan was met with widespread anger across the Muslim world and calls for calm during the sensitive holiday period from the UN and the White House. A similar incident took place early on Thursday, again triggering salvoes from Gaza. A home in the Israeli town of Sderot and several alleged military sites in the strip were damaged in the back and forth.

While Israel remained on high alert on Friday, busy midday prayers at al-Aqsa, which is also revered in Judaism as the Temple Mount, largely passed without incident. The lack of casualties in the frontier standoffs also suggested that both sides were satisfied with attacks of limited scope.

“Quiet will be answered with quiet,” said Lt Col Richard Hecht, a spokesperson for the Israeli military, while a Hamas official said they would maintain the calm should Israel do the same, with the group having “made its point”.

Hezbollah, the Shia group that helps Israel’s archfoe Iran project its power across the region, has faced extensive attacks by Israel in Syrian territory over the past week, striking at what Israel believes to be drone manufacturing sites. At least two members of the organisation have been killed.

The militant group has vowed to strike back, but, like Hamas, remains wary of an escalation. The violence at al-Aqsa mosque could have offered a pretext for retaliation.

Although Israel said Hamas was behind the attack from Lebanon, which took place as its leader Ismail Haniyeh was visiting Beirut, it is widely believed that Hezbollah must have given the move a green light. Palestinian groups operate in the south of the country with the Shia movement’s knowledge.

Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling killed a flock of sheep near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh in south Lebanon, as well as hitting a bridge and a power transformer and damaging an irrigation system, in the first cross-border attack on Lebanese targets acknowledged by Israel in a year.

In Gaza, Israeli bombardment hit what the army said were weapons production sites and underground tunnels belonging to Hamas. The Palestinian health ministry said a children’s hospital in Gaza city was damaged.

The violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday comes after the deadliest start to the year in Israel and the occupied West Bank since the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in the 2000s. About 90 Palestinians, roughly half of them combatants, have been killed by Israeli fire so far this year, according to tallies by human rights groups. Palestinian “lone wolf” attacks have killed 16 Israelis, all but one of them civilians.

This week’s events echo 2021, when clashes at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan helped start an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, serving as a reminder of how quickly wider conflagration can erupt.

Israel is also facing political disarray since the most rightwing government in the country’s history took office at the end of last year. Huge protests against the coalition’s plans to limit the powers of the supreme court have included large numbers of military reservists, raising concerns about operational readiness.

The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly fired his defence minister two weeks ago for voicing opposition to the judicial overhaul, but did not follow up with the required formal written notice. Iran and Israel’s other enemies are closely following what they see as a moment of internal weakness that can be exploited.

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian


British-Israeli sisters killed in West Bank gun attack named

Nadeem Badshah

The Guardian  /  April 8, 2023

Rina and Maia Dee, aged 15 and 20, identified on Twitter by Benjamin Netanyahu as mother remains in intensive care.

The two British-Israeli sisters killed in a gun attack in the occupied West Bank on Friday have been named as Rina and Maia Dee.

Rina, 15, and Maia, 20, who were born in London, were identified on Twitter by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Their mother, Lucianne, 45, was critically injured after their car veered off the road when gunmen opened fire while overtaking their vehicle in the Jordan valley.

She remains in intensive care in Jerusalem after being evacuated by helicopter to hospital.

Their father was reported to be Rabbi Leo Dee, who served in synagogues in Hendon, north London and Radlett in Hertfordshire before the family moved to Israel eight years ago. He was travelling in a separate car and came across the scene as emergency services arrived.

The funeral for the victims is due to be held on Sunday in the Efrat Jewish settlement, the Sunday Times reported.

The attack, by Palestinian assailants, came after Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Tensions have been heightened by days of fighting at Jerusalem’s most holy site during the rare convergence of Ramadan, Passover and Easter.

Naming the sisters for the first time, Netanyahu said: “On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I send my condolences to the Dee family from Efrat for the murder of the two wonderful sisters.

“In these moments, if the family is fighting for its life, and together with the entire nation of Israel, I pray for its safety, and we all send our condolences and strength to this dear family in this moment of great sorrow.”

The family lived in the Efrat Jewish settlement, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, according to the settlement’s mayor, Oded Revivi.

In a statement released to The Telegraph, the girls’ father said the family was “saddened” by the current political situation in Israel.

He added: “Some people think that a religious government will suppress minority rights and become totalitarian.

“But this is not a risk in Israel as religious Jews simply believe in balancing love and justice.

“For our part, we have felt a warm hug of love from Jews in Israel and beyond and we are confident that justice will be done.”

On the same day, an Italian tourist, Alessandro Parini, 36, was killed and five other Italian and British citizens were wounded when a car rammed a group in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

The UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, held a call on Saturday with his Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen, to discuss the “appalling” attacks.

The UK’s Middle East minister, Lord Ahmad, said: “I condemn yesterday’s attacks in the West Bank, killing two British-Israeli nationals and injuring one other, and in Tel Aviv where an Italian national was killed and British nationals were injured.”

The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, said: “I am shocked by reports of the killing of two British sisters in an appalling and cowardly attack in the West Bank.

“My thoughts are with their family and loved ones. More civilian victims of this cycle of violence show the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate.”

Nadeem Badshah is a freelance journalist