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Israeli-Palestinian violence rises after Trump peace plan

BETHLEHEM: Israeli security forces carry out a raid in the Bethlehem area in search of a suspect wanted for a car-ramming attack earlier in Jerusalem that left several people injured yesterday. – AFP

JERUSALEM: At least two Palestinians were killed and 15 Israelis were hurt yesterday in a string of incidents in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, where violence has risen after the US announcement of its Middle East peace plan. In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians, one during violent clashes, authorities said. In Jerusalem, a car ran down Israeli soldiers and a gunman wounded a policeman in suspected Palestinian attacks.

Long-simmering Palestinian unrest has been stoked by anger at US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which was embraced by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians when it was announced last week. The plan would give Israel most of what it has sought during decades of conflict, including the disputed holy city of Jerusalem and nearly all the occupied land on which it has built settlements.

At the entrance to Jerusalem’s walled Old City, a gunman shot at a border policeman, lightly wounding him, Israeli police said. Police opened fire on the assailant and killed him. The shooting took place not far from a popular nightlife venue where a few hours earlier, a car rammed into Israeli soldiers who were sight-seeing after coming to the city to be sworn after basic training. One soldier was badly injured and another sustained moderate injuries, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said. Twelve others were lightly injured.

Police said they were treating the car-ramming incident, which took place near the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, as a terrorist attack. The driver was still at large, police said. “It is just a matter of time – and not much time – until we get our hands on the attacker. Terrorism will not defeat us, we will win,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. In the West Bank city of Jenin, a 19-year-old man was shot dead by troops while throwing rocks at them, Palestinians said.

An Israeli military spokesman said soldiers came to Jenin to demolish the home of a Palestinian who was involved in the 2018 killing of a Jewish settler. Troops opened fire at Palestinians who shot and threw bombs at them in Jenin, the spokesman said. Palestinian authorities said another Palestinian man, a police officer, had been killed at a Jenin police station by Israeli gunfire. Israeli officials did not comment and it was unclear whether that incident was directly linked to the clashes in the West Bank city.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian elsewhere in the West Bank, saying he had thrown a fire-bomb at them during a violent protest against Trump’s plan. He was the first fatality since the plan was announced. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Israel for the deaths, linking them to what Trump has billed as the “deal of the century”. The Palestinians, who have long shunned the Trump administration, accusing it of bias towards Israel, say the plan falls far short of their demands for a viable independent state and other rights.

Israel supports the Trump plan, which would give it much of what it has sought for decades. Some Arab nations oppose it, while the European Union has also rejected parts of it. “The deal of the century caused such escalation and tension by trying to impose fake facts on the ground,” Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said. “We have repeatedly warned that any deal that doesn’t answer the minimum of Palestinian rights and that doesn’t aim to make a just and lasting peace will definitely lead to the tension we are witnessing today.” The Israel-Gaza border has also been shaken by several days of violence.

Palestinians have launched mortar fire, rockets and balloon-borne explosives into Israel, causing panic but no serious casualties. Israel has carried out nightly air strikes against sites belonging to Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists. Hamas praised the rising violence. “The spreading resistance and clashes by our people in the West Bank and their resistance in the heart of occupied Jerusalem is an active response against the destructive Trump deal,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. – Reuters

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