Attack in West Bank town casts shadow over ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks

CAIRO (AP) — A Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli vehicle in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, injuring two people, Israeli officials said. The attack cast a shadow over Egyptian mediation efforts to ease tensions ahead of a sensitive holiday period which begins this week.

The shooting came as Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in a bid to stem a spiral of violence as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this week. The shooting immediately raised questions about the prospects for further talks.

The meeting was the second attempt by the parties, led by regional allies Egypt and Jordan as well as the United States, to end a year-long violent crisis that has seen more than 200 Palestinians killed. by Israeli fire and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners killed in Palestinian attacks.

Whatever progress was made at the previous meeting in Jordan late last month, which ended with promises to defuse tensions, was quickly derailed when a new outbreak of violence erupted the same day. A Palestinian sniper shot and killed two Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Jewish settlers in response ransacked a Palestinian town, destroying property and resulting in the death of a Palestinian.

SHOW: A new wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis breaks out in the West Bank

As Sunday’s talks were underway, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli car in the same town – Hawara – as last month’s violence, the Israeli military said.

Israeli medics said a man was shot in the upper body and seriously injured while his wife was lightly injured.

The Israeli army said the suspect was shot – either by the wounded or by soldiers – and arrested. His condition was not immediately known.

Hawara is on a busy road in the northern part of the West Bank that is used by Israeli residents of nearby Jewish settlements. Many settlers carry guns.

The bloodshed has increased since last month’s meeting in Jordan, making expectations for Sunday’s second installment low.

The killing of an Islamic Jihad militant in neighboring Syria added to tensions on Sunday. The militant group, active in the northern West Bank, accused Israel of assassinating the commander. Israel did not comment.

Still, mediators want to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan, which begins this week and next month will coincide with the Jewish holiday week of Passover.

Ahmed Abu Zaid, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said Sunday’s meeting would bring together “high-level political and security officials” from each side, as well as from Egypt, Jordan and the United States. United. He wrote on Twitter that the talks were part of efforts to build and foster calm between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abu Zaid said regional and international participation in the meeting aims to establish “mechanisms” to track and activate what the parties agree on, but did not provide any further details.

The talks are part of efforts to support “dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to work towards the cessation of unilateral measures and escalation, and to break the existing cycle of violence and achieve calm”, a- he declared.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of the summit during his weekly Cabinet meeting.

Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh tweeted that the meeting was aimed at “demanding an end to this continued Israeli aggression against us”.

Israeli media said senior security officials were expected to attend.

The coming period is sensitive as large numbers of Jewish and Muslim worshipers flock to the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional heart of the conflict and hotbed of violence, increasing the points of friction. Large numbers of Jews are also expected to visit a key holy site in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, which Palestinians see as a provocation. Clashes at the site in 2021 helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

While the latest violence began under Israel’s previous government, it escalated in the first two months of the new government, led by Netanyahu and his coalition – the country’s most right-wing administration.

The government is dominated by die-hard settlers. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister who oversees the police, is an extremist once relegated to the fringes of Israeli politics, with past convictions for inciting violence and supporting a Jewish terror group. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for Hawara to be “erased” after the settler rampage last month, apologizing after an international outcry.

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The violence is one of the worst streaks between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in years.

Following a series of Palestinian attacks on Israelis last spring, Israel has launched near-night raids in the West Bank in what it says is an attempt to stem the attacks and dismantle militant networks. But the raids did not seem to slow the violence, and attacks on Israelis continued, killing 44 people.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. This year alone, 85 Palestinians have been killed, according to an Associated Press tally.

Israel says most of those killed were militants. But young stone throwers protesting the incursions were also killed, as were people not involved in the clashes. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and held in so-called administrative detention, which deprives them of due process for security reasons.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians seek these territories for their future independent state.

Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.


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