Palestinian kills Israeli soldier in West Bank knife and gun attack

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier to death in the occupied West Bank on Sunday and used his rifle to wound another soldier and a Jewish settler before escaping, Israeli officials said.

Israeli forces patrol as they search for a Palestinian gunman near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The incident began at an intersection near Ariel, a large settlement, where the Palestinian, having carried out the stabbing and grabbed the slain soldier’s gun, fired at three vehicles, hitting a civilian, the Israeli military said.

He then hijacked a car, driving it to another nearby junction where he shot a second soldier before continuing on to a nearby Palestinian village.

It was not immediately clear if more than one assailant was involved. Settler officials identified the wounded civilian as a local rabbi. Hospital officials said he was in critical condition.

In public remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of several assailants, saying: “Security forces are pursuing the attackers. I am certain they will be apprehended.”

Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s Middle East envoy, said on Twitter: “We condemn today’s brutal attack by a Palestinian terrorist.”

The Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the West Bank attack as a “natural response to crimes committed by the Israeli occupation”. The statement stopped short of a claim of responsibility.

In southern Gaza, the attack was announced over mosque loudspeakers and Hamas activists handed out sweets to passersby in celebration.

The Israeli military said it did not yet know if the attacker was affiliated with any organisation.

Palestinians, many of them individuals without known associations with militant groups, carried out a wave of attacks in the West Bank in late 2015 and 2016, but the frequency of such incidents has since decreased.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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