Palestinian assailants shot and killed a security guard at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Friday night, the Israeli military said, in a new attack that could further fuel Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have spiked in boom over the past two months.
The Israeli army said on Saturday morning that the attackers arrived at the entrance to the Ariel settlement and shot the guard at his post before fleeing. The army launched a pursuit in the West Bank.
A series of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank over the past two months have left 14 Israelis dead.
Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza, welcomed the attack but refrained from claiming responsibility.
“The operation proves that the revolution is raging throughout the West Bank,” said spokesman Hazem Qassem. “This is a practical implementation of our people’s declaration that Jerusalem is a red line.”
Tensions at the holy site
Tensions have risen this month at a major holy site in Jerusalem, with daily clashes between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police. The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and an increasing number of Palestinians go there to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Earlier Friday, Palestinians threw rocks and Israeli police fired rubber bullets at the site, which has seen a wave of unrest in recent weeks.
Police said Palestinians inside the mosque compound began throwing rocks and fireworks around dawn towards a heavily guarded gate that leads to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. The police entered the compound firing rubber bullets.
The violence ended about an hour later after other Palestinians in the compound intervened, convincing the stone-throwers and police to stand down.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said more than 40 people had been injured, including 22 requiring treatment at local hospitals. He said Israeli forces blocked first responders from entering the compound during the clashes and that one of his doctors was beaten by police.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in a statement they had arrested three people.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is built on a hill that is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was the location of Jewish temples in ancient times. It has long been a hot spot in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In recent weeks, Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed there on several occasions. Israeli authorities accuse Hamas of inciting violence and say security forces were forced to intervene to stop the stone-throwing.
Palestinians say the presence of Israeli police at the site and regular visits by growing numbers of nationalist and religious Jews are a violation of decades-old informal agreements governing the site. Visits were halted last week for the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend.