Israel police kill two Palestinians attacking West Bank base

By: AFP      Published: 09:38 PM, 7 May, 2021
Israel police kill two Palestinians attacking West Bank base

Israeli security forces Friday killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio had opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said, the latest flareup in violence after clashes in east Jerusalem.

The exchange of gunfire at the Salem base outside the northern West Bank town of Jenin came as tensions soar in annexed east Jerusalem over an eviction threat hanging over four Palestinian families.

Tamir Pero, spokesman of Israel's border police, told AFP Palestinian attackers armed with rifles began running toward officers and shooting.

Pero said the officers "took cover behind concrete blocks and returned fire", killing two attackers and critically wounding a third before any officers were injured. 

Guns, knives and a large supply of ammunition were found on the men, police said.

The unrest came on Al-Quds Day -- named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem -- an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel "not a country, but a terrorist base", and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was "everyone's duty".

Jerusalem clashes

Friday's killings follow days of clashes and shootings.

On Sunday, a 19-year-old Israeli was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting at the Tapuah junction bus stop, also in the northern West Bank.

Israeli security forces later announced they had arrested Montasser Shalabi, 44, near Ramallah, on suspicion of carrying out the attack. Palestinian sources said Shalabi is a dual US national.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops killed a 16-year-old Palestinian when they opened fire on protesters throwing petrol bombs near Nablus.

The funerals of both youngsters were held on Thursday.

In east Jerusalem, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood near the walled Old City has seen recent clashes between police and protesters, fuelled by a years-long land dispute between Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlers. 

Police said they made 15 arrests late Thursday and 11 the previous night. The Red Crescent said 22 Palestinians were injured in the Wednesday night clashes.

Police said protesters torched a vehicle and threw stones outside a house occupied by Jewish settlers.

Palestinians also traded insults with far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who visited Sheikh Jarrah to voice support for the settlers.

By Friday afternoon, around 100 protesters returned to the site, where Israeli police had fired stun grenades. The protest renewed as Palestinian Muslims flocked to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City for the last Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Possible 'war crime

In neighbouring Jordan -- home to a large Palestinian population -- hundreds joined a Palestinian solidarity rally in the capital Amman Friday, chanting "we will die for Sheikh Jarrah".

The United Nations called on Israel Friday to end any "forced evictions" in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, warning that its actions could amount to "war crimes".

Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled four Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah legally belonged to Jewish families, citing purchases made when the whole of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel, was under British rule.

The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel's creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.

The Sheikh Jarrah families have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities, who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. 

Israel's Supreme Court is to hold a new hearing in the case on Monday.

Several other homes also face eviction threats that affect a total of 58 Palestinians, according to settlement watchdog Peace Now. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement: "We hold the Israeli government responsible for this escalation and its repercussions."

He urged Washington to pressure Israel "so that matters do not reach a stage that cannot be controlled".