Mideast peace talks threatened after Israeli soldier deaths

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The United States on Sunday condemned the killings of two Israeli soldiers on the West Bank who were killed in separate incidents.

One Israeli soldier died in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, after being shot by a suspected Palestinian gunman, according to Israeli officials.

The deaths have sparked questions over the fate of peace talks, which were launched last month after a three-year hiatus.

The shooting came just two days after another soldier was killed by a Palestinian and took place close to the volatile Cave of the Patriarchs, which is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims.

In a statement concerning both attacks, the United States said such incidents “undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiation.”

“We call on all parties to join in condemning these attacks,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

A statement from the Israeli military on Sunday said “an IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldier was killed by gunfire fired this evening at an army force in Hebron.”

Israeli police had earlier said the soldier had been shot, “probably by terrorists,” although the gunman had fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt.

Israeli response

The army said that the soldier who was shot was involved in “defending the Jewish neighborhood of Hebron,” where about 11,000 Israelis were expected to visit over the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the resettlement of the disputed Machpela house, a Hebron structure near the Cave of the Patriarchs from which he had removed 15 Jewish settlers last year.

“Whoever tries to forcibly remove us from the city of our patriarchs will achieve the opposite,” he said in a statement.

“We will continue to fight terror and strike at its perpetrators with one hand, while strengthening the settlements with the other.”

Senior Israeli cabinet minister Naftali Bennett said that the two attacks may push Israel to reconsider its involvement in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“There is no doubt that there have been unfortunate developments since the start of the negotiations which require the government to reconsider its path,” he wrote.

(With AFP)

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