.
.
.
.

Palestinian kills Israeli, wounds family in West Bank attack

The tough Israeli action followed a deadly spike in Palestinian violence, with several attacks in two days

Published: Updated:

Israeli troops locked down the occupied West Bank’s most populous city Hebron and surrounding villages on Saturday after two Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks nearby.

Troops locked gates and set up barriers blocking access routes to villages in the area and closed all exit roads from the city except for the northern one through the town of Halhul towards Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent reported.

The army announced on Friday that it would close off the flashpoint city and deploy two additional battalions to the area.

The measures were described as the “most substantial steps on the ground” since 2014, when Israeli forces carried out a huge search operation in the southern West Bank for three young hitchhikers abducted and later murdered by Palestinian militants.

Hebron has been one of the main focuses of a wave of deadly unrest that has rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories since last October.

At least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed.

The army has said that around 80 of the attacks on Israelis have been carried out by Palestinians from the Hebron area.

Several hundred Jewish settlers live in a tightly guarded enclave in the heart of the city of more than 200,000 Palestinians, a persistent source of tensions.

On Thursday, 19-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Nasser Tarayra broke into the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron and killed 13-year-old Israeli-American Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her bedroom before being shot dead by a security guard.

And on Friday, 48-year-old Michael Mark was killed after his car was fired on by a suspected Palestinian gunman south of Hebron.

The army was conducting searches in the area on Saturday but there were no immediate reports of any arrests.

An army spokesman said the closure was “intended to break the chain of lethal attacks.”

“The physical presence will also disrupt, prevent and foil additional attacks, inspired by the attackers of the last 48 hours,” Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP.

On Friday, Sarah Tarayra, 27, was shot dead after drawing a knife on Israeli forces in Hebron. She was a relative of the Kiryat Arba attacker, and both were from Bani Naim, a village just outside Hebron.

Lerner said the army had revoked the Israeli work permits of all residents of the village.

The army said no decision had been taken on how long the closure would remain in place, but Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it should stay “for an extended period of time.”

A Palestinian gunman ambushed a family traveling in a car in the West Bank on Friday, killing an Israeli man and wounding his wife and two teenage children in an assault that prompted the military to send hundreds of troops to the area — the largest operation in the territory in two years.

The army also imposed a closure on the Hebron district, a flashpoint area where many of the recent attacks have stemmed from.

Additionally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will reduce the amount of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians each month, saying that some of the money was being given to families of attackers.

The tough Israeli action followed a deadly spike in Palestinian violence, with several attacks in two days.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the Hebron closure will limit movement except for humanitarian cases. Over 80 Palestinian attacks have originated or taken place in Hebron area since the current wave of violence erupted in September, he said. Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and home to about 170,000 Palestinians. About 850 Israeli settlers also live in heavily-guarded enclaves there.

Much of the animosity in the biblical city is over a holy site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Lerner said an initial investigation shows the Palestinian car overtook the Israeli vehicle and opened fire before fleeing the scene. He said it was not immediately known how many gunmen carried out the attack. He said at least 20 shots were fired.

Hundreds of soldiers deployed will act as “a physical barrier on the ground,” Lerner said, describing it as the military’s “most substantial” steps taken in the West Bank since 2014, when thousands of troops entered the West Bank to find three Israeli teenagers who were abducted and killed by Palestinian gunmen.

Lerner did not elaborate on how long the closure would be in place.

Hebron Mayor Dawod Zatari said the Israeli troops closed the southern entrance to the city, which connects it to other cities and villages.

“This measure is meant to collectively punish our people,” he said.
In Friday’s shooting, an Israeli man was killed and his wife and two teenage children were wounded, Israel’s ambulance service said.

The man was identified in Israeli media as Miki Mark, 48, the head of a Jewish seminary in the settlement of Otniel. Reports said he was a father of 10 and a cousin of Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s spy agency, Mossad.

In another attack Friday, Israeli police said a Palestinian woman, later identified by Palestinian officials as 27-year-old Sarah Tarayreh, had attempted to stab an officer during a security check outside the Hebron shrine.

She aroused suspicion at the checkpoint and was asked to go into a room to undergo a further security check by a female police officer, said Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri. At that point, the woman pulled out a knife and tried to stab a female officer before she was shot and killed, Samri said.

Tarayreh was from the same town and the same clan as the Palestinian who stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl to death as she slept in her bedroom on Thursday, but was not a close relative, said the mayor of Bani Naim, Mahmoud Manasrah.

Palestinian clans in the West Bank can have thousands of members.

The killing of the 13-year-old-girl, carried out by a 17-year-old Palestinian high school dropout, was among the most brazen attacks so far in a nine-month wave of assaults, and it drew angry accusations and calls from Israeli leaders for the world to condemn the incident. On Thursday evening, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a man and a woman in the Israeli city of Netanya.

Over the past nine months, Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbings, shootings and attacks using cars against civilians and security forces that killed 34 Israelis and two American tourists.

Israeli troops as well as some armed civilians have killed about 200 Palestinians during this period, most said by Israeli to be attackers.

The Palestinians and Israeli rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force at times by killing assailants who they say could have been subdued. In some cases, Palestinians were killed as they tried to flee the scene, or after they had already been stopped or wounded after carrying out an attack.

Israel says the violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement, compounded on social media sites that glorify and encourage attacks. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.

Netanyahu on Friday visited the family of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the girl stabbed to death Thursday.

“To see Hallel’s room, to see the blood stains next to her bed and the books and clothes of a small child, this is shocking,” he said.

In announcing the tax money withholdings, Netanyahu accused the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, of transferring funds to attackers by various laundering methods.

“The more severe the acts of terrorism, the greater the amount of funds,” he said, adding that payment “to terrorists and their families constitutes incentive for murder.”

The Palestinian ministry of prisoner affairs said the salaries are paid to every Palestinian prisoner and freed prisoners who spent more than five years in Israeli jails.

“The money goes to the families as social welfare, we cannot leave any family without help,” said Issa Qaraqe, the minister for prisoner affairs.

Amani Sarahneh, spokeswoman of the Palestinian prisoners’ club said the Palestinian government pays about $11 million per month to prisoners and freed prisoners.

Also Friday, a report by, the Quartet of Mideast negotiators — the U.N., US, European Union and Russia — said Israel’s settlement expansion is eroding the viability of a Palestinian state and raises “legitimate questions” about its commitment to a two-state solution.

The report criticizes the glorification of Palestinians who commit “terrorist attacks” and calls on the Palestinians to “act decisively” to stop incitement to violence and to clearly condemn “all acts of terrorism.”