Five dead in West Bank and Jerusalem flare-up

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian shot dead two Israelis in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the military said, after security forces killed two Palestinian murder suspects, stoking fears of wider violence.
In a separate attack, a Palestinian stabbed two Israeli border police in Jerusalem’s Old City before being shot dead, in the bloodiest 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.
The Israeli army said a Palestinian exited his car at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement before opening fire on soldiers and civilians.
Two people were killed and at least two others injured, although a spokesperson was unable to confirm reports the victims were Israeli soldiers.
An AFP photographer sighted two men who appeared to be soldiers lying on the ground, before their bodies were covered up.
Following the attack, the army circled the West Bank’s main city of Ramallah near Ofra, closing off all entrances and exits and sending in reinforcements, the army and an AFP correspondent said.
Troops began entering the outskirts of the city, with young Palestinian men preparing stones as they braced for clashes, the correspondent said.
The shooting came only hours after Israeli forces killed two fighters allegedly responsible for West Bank attacks that claimed the lives of three Israelis, including a baby.
The armed wing of Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel in Gaza since 2008, claimed the two Palestinians as its “fighters.”
One of the two was Salah Barghouti, a 29-year-old accused of shooting at Israelis on Sunday, also at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement.
That attack wounded seven people, including a woman who was seven months pregnant.
Doctors tried to save her baby boy with an emergency caesarean but he died on Wednesday and was laid to rest in Jerusalem. The mother remains in hospital in a serious condition.
The other Palestinian killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday night had been suspected of shooting dead two Israelis in October.
Ashraf Naalwa, 23, was killed when forces tried to arrest him near Nablus in the West Bank, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.
The house near Nablus where Naalwa was found was peppered with bullet holes after the raid, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
On October 7, Naalwa allegedly shot and killed two Israelis, 28-year-old Kim Yehezhel and 35-year-old Ziv Hagbi, in the Barkan industrial zone settlement.
The two were employees of the recycling company where Naalwa worked. A separate incident on Thursday morning saw a man stab two border police in Jerusalem’s Old City before being shot dead.
There were no immediate details on the identity of the assailant.
The violence came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank, with a former head of Shin Bet’s intelligence and research division saying it appeared to be a “new front” opened by Hamas.
“It is a part of the new initiative of (Hamas) that decided to open a new front in the West Bank after a period of time that they got to the conclusion they will ease down their efforts from the Gaza Strip,” Barak Ben-Zur said.
Since Sunday’s attack, Israeli forces have made a series of incursions into central Ramallah, the home of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Hebrew posters have been pasted in the West Bank over the past week inciting the killing of Abbas. — AFP