A suspected Palestinian terrorist killed an Israeli-American motorist in the West Bank as violence in the disputed territory continued despite the historic peace talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials over the weekend.
Israeli officials said in the latest incident Palestinians carried out several drive-by shootings on a highway near Jericho, killing an Israeli in his car before fleeing. The U.S. State Department said the person killed was also a U.S. citizen.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility by any Palestinian groups. The State Department did not identify the person killed.
Israel reinforced its West Bank garrisons after two brothers from a Jewish settlement were shot dead on Sunday, triggering a rampage by Israeli citizens in which a Palestinian was killed, 300 more were injured, and dozens of cars and homes were torched.
With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions that surged after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regained power at the head of a hard-right coalition.
The events cast doubt on Netanyahu’s ability to walk a diplomatic tightrope between Washington – pushing for a lasting compromise – and his own cabinet, many of which are demanding tough action against Palestinian attacks.
At a regular briefing for reporters, State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned attacks by both sides and welcomed statements by Netanyahu calling for a cessation to what Price described as “vigilante violence” by Israelis.
“Accountability and justice should be pursued with equal rigor in all cases of extremist violence and equal resources dedicated to prevent such attacks and bring those responsible to justice,” Price said. “These events underscore the fragility of the situation in the West Bank and the urgent need for increased cooperation to prevent further violence.”
The U.S. is extremely concerned by the continuing violence in Israel and the West Bank. It is imperative Israel and the Palestinians work together to de-escalate tensions and restore calm. Israelis and Palestinians deserve equally to live in safety and security. pic.twitter.com/f5i67XNb4p
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) February 27, 2023
On Sunday, Jordan, with U.S. envoys, hosted a rare meeting where Israeli and Palestinian officials pledged a slowdown in Jewish settlement announcements by the Netanyahu government and reaffirmed past peace accords.
Diplomacy stalled in 2014. Israel now rules out West Bank handovers to the Palestinians, who are themselves divided between the internationally-backed administration of President Mahmoud Abbas and Islamists opposed to peacemaking, many of which are classified as terrorist organizations.
The Islamist terrorist organization Hamas said through its spokesman, Abdel-Latif Al-Qanoua, that Monday’s attack was a “natural response” to Israeli attacks and promoted further violence from Palestinians.
“The crimes conducted by the occupation and the herds of settlers will not be met but with stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming,” Qanoua said in a statement.
“We expect difficult days ahead of us,” Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told reporters as he toured the largely empty streets of the village of Hawara, the site of Sunday’s violence, under a heavy security detail.
Abbas blamed the Israeli government for the Hawara rampage.
Lamar Abusarees, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, said her house was among those set alight by the Israeli extremists: “My mother moved us to a corner because there was no safe place, they broke all the windows while we were inside.”
Israeli police said they had arrested two people for the rampage. In parliament, Netanyahu said security forces were closing in on the gunman who had killed the Israeli brothers.
Four extra army battalions and two border police companies were posted to the West Bank since Sunday as reinforcements, the Israeli military said.
“I call on everyone to restore calm,” Gallant said. “We cannot allow a situation in which citizens take the law into their hands.”
Sixty-three Palestinians, including both terrorists and civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces in 2023, according to Palestinian officials. Palestinian attacks have killed 13 Israelis, one of them a policeman, and a Ukrainian tourist, Israel says.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters. Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal.