A suspected Palestinian attacker killed an Israeli woman and seriously wounded a man in the south of the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli authorities said, as violence flared in the restive territory two days after a shooting that killed two Israelis.
Later Monday, eight Palestinians were injured during an Israeli army raid near the city of Nablus, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. One of the eight was in critical condition with a gunshot to the head, the report said. The army did not respond to requests for more information.
Monday’s violence was part of a sharp escalation in recent months involving Palestinian militants, Israeli security forces and radical Jewish settlers. It took place as Israeli forces were already on high alert and searching for the gunman who had killed two Israelis in the northern West Bank on Saturday.
The combustible mix of armed Palestinians carrying out shooting attacks as well as near-nightly – and often deadly – raids by the Israeli army to arrest militants has fuelled the worst fighting in the West Bank in nearly two decades.
Reprisals by Jewish settlers against Palestinians have also heightened tensions. Late on Sunday, Israeli settlers threw stones and firebombs at a Palestinian home south of Nablus near the site of Saturday’s deadly attack, local officials reported, causing damage but no injuries.
On Monday, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an Israeli car on Route 60, the main north-south road in the West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Hebron. The army said the apparent drive-by shooting killed an Israeli woman and seriously wounded a man.
The victims’ sedan was riddled with over a dozen bullet holes. The gunman fled, prompting the second large-scale search by Israeli security in two days. The military shut down all entrances to Hebron along with other towns to the south and east.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, claimed responsibility for the shooting.
The Israeli rescue service reported that the two victims were in their 40s and that a 6-year-old girl who was also in the car was unharmed. The man was taken to a hospital, the rescue service said.
A regional council representing settlements identified the woman killed as Batsheva Nigri, a mother of three and a kindergarten teacher, who lived in the Jewish settlement of Beit Hagai, near Hebron.
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians protested near the border fence with Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry said eight people were wounded by Israeli fire and tear gas.
Monday’s shooting came two days after another Palestinian attack killed an Israeli father and son who were getting their car washed in the northern Palestinian town of Hawara, putting the West Bank on edge.
Speaking at the scene of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was “in the grips of a new terror offensive” purportedly sponsored by Iran which Israel sees as its arch-enemy in the region.
“We are working around the clock – all of the officers and soldiers – in order to apprehend the killers and those who try to kill Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.
Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since the start of this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone throwing youths protesting the incursions and those not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Some 30 people have been killed by Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that time.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces, inspire more militancy and entrench Israeli control over lands they seek for a hoped-for future state. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.