Middle EastWorld

Israeli soldier killed in car ramming attack

Israeli security forces inspect the site of a car ramming attack outside the Israeli West Bank Settlement of Ofra on April 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

JERUSALEM; A Palestinian man carried out a car-ramming next to a bus stop near a settlement in the occupied West Bank yesterday, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding another, officials said. The incident near the Israeli settlement of Ofra came ahead of the Jewish Passover holiday beginning on Monday, which has raised fears of an upsurge in violence.

The military named the dead soldier as Sergeant Elchai Teharlev, 20. A spokeswoman told AFP that the wounded man was also a soldier, but did not comment on his condition. The alleged attacker was arrested, an Israeli army statement said, without giving details about him. He was identified as Malek Hamed, 22, from the nearby West Bank town of Silwad, by official Palestinian news agency WAFA, which also said he had been shot and wounded.

Following the incident, a vehicle with Palestinian license plates, which had mounted the pavement, was seen surrounded by soldiers. The incident took place next to a bus stop outside Ofra, north of Ramallah. It was the first fatal attack on Israelis since January 8, when a Palestinian killed four soldiers in a Jerusalem truck-ramming attack.

A wave of violence that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 259 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The violence has greatly subsided in recent months.

There are fears the week-long Passover holiday will lead to a fresh outbreak of violence, particularly if there is an increase in Jewish visitors to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. The site is holy to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed, and is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tensions regularly flare over the site, with Palestinians fearing Israel will seek to assert further control over it. Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he has no intention of changing that status quo, though hardline members of his coalition push for Jewish prayer rights there. – AFP

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