05 August 2023

Israeli security guard dies in Tel Aviv shooting

05 August 2023

A Palestinian gunman has opened fire in central Tel Aviv, killing an Israeli security guard before he was shot and killed by police, authorities said.

The attack came a day after a settler rampage in the occupied West Bank killed one Palestinian, deepening the spiral of violence that has gripped the region for the past year and a half.

Late on Saturday, officials from Ichilov Hospital identified the Tel Aviv security guard who was killed as 42-year-old Chen Amir.

Police identified the gunman as 27-year-old Kamel Abu Bakr, from a village near the flashpoint city of Jenin in the northern West Bank.

Jenin’s refugee camp last month was the site of the largest Israeli offensive in the West Bank in nearly two decades.

Twelve Palestinians, including at least eight militants, and one Israeli soldier, were killed in the fighting, which forced thousands to flee their homes and left large swathes of the camp in ruins.

lsraeli police said that Mr Amir and another officer noticed Bakr, and, believing he was acting suspiciously, approached him.

They said Bakr then opened fire, gravely wounding Mr Amir. After a short chase, an inspector shot Bakr.

Both Mr Amir and Bakr later died at Ichilov Hospital, according to hospital officials. Mr Amir was married and had three daughters.

Amateur video circulated online of Bakr vowing that armed resistance was “the only path”.

Israel’s internal security agency said that Bakr had been wanted for the past six months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and police commissioner Kobi Shabtai praised the Tel Aviv police for preventing a more serious attack.

“Our security forces will counter all those who seek to harm us,” Mr Netanyahu said.

After the attack, police and civilians ran through the cafe-lined streets in the seaside metropolis as protesters nearby rallied for their 40th week of protests against Mr Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary.

Police said they would bolster their presence in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, and protest leaders said demonstrations would proceed normally.

The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad both issued statements praising the attack.

The shooting came one day after a settler rampage in a village in the northern West Bank.

Late on Friday, armed settlers entered Burqa, a herding village east of the city of Ramallah, shooting and killing 19-year-old Qusai Matan, Palestinian health officials said.

Israeli police said on Saturday that they had arrested two Israeli settlers in connection with the attack.

Israeli media reported that one of the arrested settlers used to work as an aide for a legislator of the far-right Israeli “Jewish Power” party which is in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition of ultranationalist and ultraorthodox parties in the Israeli parliament.

It includes Itamar Ben-Gvir, a pro-settlement firebrand known for hardline positions against Palestinians who is now the country’s national security minister, overseeing the national police force.

Police said they arrested two settlers after detaining five for questioning. The other settler who was arrested was taken to hospital after sustaining injuries on Friday night.

The army said that Israeli settlers arrived in the area to herd sheep, leading to clashes between Israelis and Palestinians from the village.

Both sides hurled rocks at each other, the army said, and Israelis fired at Palestinians, leaving Mr Matai dead and four Palestinians and several Israelis injured by rocks.

The village was closed down and more Israeli troops were stationed in the area surrounding it.

Palestinian officials said the settlers also burned two cars in the village. They also called for the perpetrators to be punished.

The rampage drew criticism from the UK Embassy in Israel, which wrote on social media that it was “appalled” by the settler attacks and called for accountability and justice for those involved.

Yair Lapid, an opposition leader in the Israeli parliament, said that violent settler attacks in the West Bank endanger other settlers, describing most as “law-abiding civilians”.

He added that the attacks are emboldened by members of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition.

“The backing they receive from the most extreme coalition in the country’s history is a political attack,” he wrote on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Violence has spiralled in the northern West Bank with the rise of shooting attacks by Palestinian groups against Israelis and daily arrest raids by the Israeli military, and growing attacks by extremist Jewish settlers.

The surge in fighting is one of the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in nearly two decades. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of 2023 in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Israel says most killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting against army raids and innocent bystanders have also been killed.

At least 26 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis so far this year.

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