- Fresh attack could further fuel Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have soared in the past two months
- Trend of violence escalation will not decline over the next month, warns security expert
RAMALLAH: Palestinian assailants shot and killed a security guard at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank late on Friday, bringing the number of Israeli losses within a month to 15.
It brought a deadly conclusion to a Friday marked by clashes at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Israeli Army made arrests on Saturday after launching a manhunt for the attackers, while asking the settlers to stay indoors for fear of more attacks. It added that security forces seized weapons at Bruqin, also nearby, and at the Balata refugee camp.
The Ariel settlement, near Salfit city, established in 1978, housing 20,000 extremist settlers, was subjected to a series of Palestinian attacks in 2002 and 2007.
Salfit Mayor Abdel Karim Zubeidi said the Israeli Army cut off 11,000 Salfit residents from the West Bank and closed all of its entrances as part of a collective punishment imposed on the city following the attack.
Israeli bulldozers, he said, blocked the three main entrances to Salfit and blew up the city’s main water pipeline.
Zubeidi added that the Israeli forces stormed Salfit on Friday night following the attack, firing live rounds, sound bombs and tear gas at civilians. No one was injured.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a coalition of Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hamas said the attack symbolized Palestinian resistance to the Israeli aggression that “dispelled the settlers’ illusions that their daily crimes against our people, our land and our holy sites, and their incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque would go unresponded.”
Palestinian military attacks against armed settlers and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank enjoy popular support, unlike operations targeting Israeli civilians inside Israel.
Israeli political and security analyst Yoni Ben-Menahem told Arab News that he believed that Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had motives for revenge as the Israeli army had killed three of its members in Nablus a few weeks ago during armed clashes in Jenin.
Ben-Menahem said that was a direct effect of the so-called incitement at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, which encouraged Palestinian elements to launch attacks against Israeli targets. The trend of escalation and violence will not end within the next month, he added.
He referred to Friday’s statement from the leader of the politburo of Islamic Jihad, Khaled Al-Batsh, who threatened that the movement would launch missiles toward Israel, especially toward Jerusalem, if the settlers’ flag march was held inside the old city of Jerusalem in May.
Also on Friday night, the Israeli forces killed a 27-year-old Palestinian, Yahiya Adwan, from Azzun, near Qalqilya, during clashes. An eyewitness said the Israeli soldiers shot Adwan from close range and that a bullet hit his heart.
Israeli security sources said that the coming weeks will present a significant challenge for the security and military establishment, which seems incapable of preventing deadly lone wolf attacks — dramatically changing the security situation — and that Hamas would continue to sponsor these attacks.
Forty-two people were hurt in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa site, venerated by Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem’s old city.
The unrest occurred on the last Friday in Ramadan, bringing the number of Palestinians injured in clashes at the holy site over the last two weeks to nearly 300.
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, along with the West Bank, which it later annexed, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.