28 February 2023

Israeli-American motorist shot dead in West Bank

28 February 2023

A suspected Palestinian gunman has shot dead an Israeli-American motorist in the occupied West Bank amid a fresh wave of violence that shows no signs of slowing.

The killing occurred a day after two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian gunman in the northern West Bank, triggering a rampage in which Israeli settlers torched dozens of cars and homes in a Palestinian town and one Palestinian was killed. It was the worst such violence in decades.

The Israeli army said that Monday’s attackers opened fire at an Israeli car near the Palestinian city of Jericho, hitting the motorist.

The attackers, travelling in one vehicle, then drove further and fired again, the army said. The attackers set their own vehicle on fire and fled, setting off a manhunt.

The 27-year-old motorist was transferred to Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, where he later died of his injuries. The man was not immediately identified but the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said the man held American citizenship.

Earlier, Israel sent hundreds more troops to the northern West Bank to restore calm after Sunday’s violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, came under criticism for its failure to halt a surge in violence and for sending what some saw as mixed messages.

As Mr Netanyahu appealed for calm, a member of his ruling coalition praised the rampage as deterrence against Palestinian attacks.

The Israeli army also came under criticism for its failure to move quickly to stop the rioting, the worst such violence in decades.

“The government needs to decide what it is,” veteran columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

“Is it resolved to enforce law and order on Arabs and Jews alike? Or is it a fig leaf for the hilltop youth, who do as they please in the territories? That same question also applies to the army, which has thus far failed to deal effectively with either Palestinian terrorism or Jewish terrorism.”

The events also underscored the limitations of the traditional US approach to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington has been trying to prevent escalation while staying away from the politically costly task of pushing for a resolution of the core disputes.

As the violence raged in the West Bank, such an attempt at conflict management was taking place on Sunday in Jordan, with the US bringing together Israeli and Palestinian officials to work out a plan for de-escalation.

Sunday’s events kicked off when a Palestinian gunman shot and killed brothers Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, aged 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha, in an ambush in the Palestinian town of Hawara in the northern West Bank.

The gunman fled and remained on the loose late on Monday while the brothers were buried in Jerusalem.

Following the shooting, groups of settlers rampaged along the main thoroughfare in Hawara, which is used by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. In one video, a crowd of settlers stood in prayer as they stared at a building in flames.

Late on Sunday, a 37-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli fire, two Palestinians were shot and wounded and another was beaten with an iron bar, Palestinian health officials said. Some 95 Palestinians were being treated for tear gas inhalation, according to medics.

On Monday morning, the Hawara thoroughfare was lined with rows of burned-out cars and smoke-blackened buildings. Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched.

Sultan Farouk Abu Sris, a shop owner in Hawara, said he briefly went outside and saw scores of settlers setting containers and a home on fire. “It’s destruction. They came bearing hatred,” he said.

At the scene of the shooting, Defence Minister Yoav Galant told reporters that Israel “cannot allow a situation in which citizens take the law into their hands” but stopped short of outright condemning the violence.

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