HAWARA, West Bank (AP) — A suspected Palestinian gunman shot and killed an Israeli driver in the occupied West Bank on Monday, in the latest deadly incident in a new wave of violence that shows no signs of abating.
The death came a day after two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian gunman in the northern West Bank, prompting a violent response from Israeli settlers, who burned dozens of cars and homes in a Palestinian town and killed a Palestinian. It was the worst such incident in decades.
According to the Israeli army, assailants fired on an Israeli car near the Palestinian city of Jericho on Monday, hitting the driver.
The assailants, who were in a vehicle, continued to advance and fired again, the army said. They then set their own car on fire and fled in pursuit.
The 27-year-old Israeli driver was taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he later died of his injuries, the hospital said. The victim was not immediately identified, but US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said the man had US citizenship.
Earlier in the day, Israel sent hundreds of additional troops to the northern West Bank to try to restore calm after Sunday’s violence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, has been criticized for failing to curb the violence and for sending what some saw as mixed messages. As Netanyahu called for calm, a member of his coalition hailed Jewish settler violence as a deterrent against Palestinian attacks.
The Israeli army has also been criticized for failing to stop the worst wave of violence in decades.
“The government must decide what it is,” veteran commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. “Are you prepared to apply the law equally to Arabs and Jews? Or is it a cover for the settlers, who do what they want in the territories? And the same goes for the military, which so far has not effectively confronted Palestinian or Jewish terrorism.”
The events further underscore the limits of traditional US strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Washington is trying to avoid an escalation, but at the same time avoids the politically costly task of pushing for the resolution of central disputes.
As violence raged in the West Bank, Jordan hosted a meeting on Sunday to try to manage the conflict in which the United States brought together Israeli and Palestinian officials to draw up a de-escalation plan.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War – for their future state. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The international community regards the Israeli outposts as illegal and an obstacle to peace.
So far this year, 62 Palestinians, almost half of them affiliated with armed groups, have been killed by Israeli soldiers and civilians. During the same period, 14 Israelis, all but one civilian, were killed in attacks by Palestinians.
Last year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2004, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in these territories. Around 30 people on the Israeli side were killed in Palestinian attacks.
Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.