Palestinian attacker opens fire at West Bank gas station, kills at least 4 people

Israeli forces killed the Palestinian attacker in fighting in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a surge of violence that has wracked the region

Updated - June 20, 2023 09:31 pm IST

Published - June 20, 2023 02:56 pm IST - JERUSALEM

Smoke rises during fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Jenin, on June 19, 2023.

Smoke rises during fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Jenin, on June 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

A Palestinian attacker opened fire at a gas station near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on Tuesday, killing at least four persons and wounding several others, Israeli medics said, as violence continued to roil the occupied territory.

The shooting underscored the fragility of the situation in the West Bank, where on Monday an Israeli military raid into the northern Jenin refugee camp ignited some of the fiercest Israeli-Palestinian fighting seen in years, killing six Palestinians. Militants targeted Israeli military vehicles with roadside bombs and Israeli forces deployed helicopter gunships to evacuate stranded troops.

The intense surge in violence has killed 126 Palestinians and 24 people on the Israeli side so far this year, prompting many on either side of the conflict to fear a possible greater conflagration.

Israeli security forces said they shot the gunman and were still searching for other attackers near the Jewish settlement of Eli north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Palestinian media reported that the attacker's driver had fled the scene.

The condition of the attacker was not immediately clear. Photos circulated of a man lying bloodied and face-down in the street beside an automatic rifle.

The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attack as a response to the Israeli military raid on Monday, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

“Revolutionaries in the West Bank are striking everywhere, and specifically where (Israel) does not expect it,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was set to meet with Israel’s army chief and other top security officials to discuss a response to the shooting.

The Israeli rescue service said it had evacuated two seriously wounded men, ages 20 and 38, to nearby hospitals for treatment. It said that of the four people wounded at the scene, one remained in serious condition. The identities of the victims were not immediately clear.

Tuesday's shooting followed fighting in the northern Jenin refugee camp that killed six Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded over 90 others. On Tuesday, the death toll from the raid rose to six when 48-year-old Amjad Abu Jaas succumbed to wounds sustained in the gunbattle, Palestinian health officials said. A dozen Palestinians remained in critical condition. Eight Israeli soldiers were also wounded.

After the deadly raid, Palestinians rushed to checkpoints to throw stones at Israeli military vehicles in protest. In the Palestinian town of Husan, west of Bethlehem, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man who they alleged threw a firebomb at troops along a West Bank highway. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man killed as 21-year-old Zakaria al-Zaoul.

Israel and the Palestinian territories have been gripped by months of violence, fueled by several factors. Rising militancy among a new generation of Palestinians, the new far-right government's hard-line stance against the Palestinians and an escalating Israeli military crackdown on the West Bank have all worked to fuel violence and undermine efforts to calm tensions.

Israel has been staging near-nightly raids in the West Bank in response to a spasm of Palestinian violence early last year. Israel says most of the 126 Palestinian dead this year were militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.

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