May 27, 2024

Six Israelis Wounded In West Bank Shooting, Gunman Killed: Police

Israeli security men near the covered body of the gunman

A Palestinian gunman opened fire at a group of Israelis in a settlement in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, wounding six people before being shot dead, police said.

Since early last year, the West Bank has seen a string of attacks by Palestinians on Israeli targets, as well as violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian communities.

“A terrorist opened fire at a group of people in Maaleh Adumim,” a police statement said, referring to the Jewish settlement and adding that an off-duty border police officer “neutralised” the assailant.

Police later confirmed to AFP that the gunman was shot dead, during the incident near a shopping mall.

The Palestinian health ministry said the assailant, named as Muhannad Mohammad al-Mazaraah, 20, was killed by “occupation bullets”.

Hospitals in Jerusalem said they were treating six people including a teenager wounded in the attack, two of whom were in a serious condition.

The off-duty officer who shot the gunman said he was in a barbershop when he heard shots and shouting, and rushed outside. He said he saw a man wearing a yellow vest and holding a pistol.

“I wasn’t sure he was the terrorist,” the officer, whose identity was not revealed, said in a video released by police.

“I yelled at him to stop and cocked my gun. He began firing at me, and I realised he was the terrorist.”

Police said the officer then managed to shoot the gunman dead in return fire.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is home to nearly three million Palestinians and around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinians, who seek their own independent state, want Israel to withdraw from all land it occupied in the Six-Day War and to dismantle all Jewish settlements.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took power in December in a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, has pledged to “strengthen settlements”. He has expressed no interest in reviving peace talks, which have been moribund since 2014.

Israel’s hardline Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who himself lives in a settlement, praised the officer who killed the gunman and also the government policy to distribute weapons to citizens.

It “is an important policy that proves itself”, he said after visiting the site of the attack.

“I think that (distributing weapons) to this combination of citizens, border policemen, fighters, policemen who defend the state of Israel is the right combination,” Ben-Gvir said.

Since being appointed in December, Ben-Gvir has worked to streamline the licensing process for private guns in Israel to enable people who meet the country’s strict criteria to bear arms.

In a separate incident later Tuesday in the southern West Bank, soldiers questioned a Palestinian who aroused their suspicion at a bus stop.

“The suspect attempted to stab them. One of the soldiers neutralised the assailant,” the army said in a statement, sharing a picture of a knife.

The Palestinian health ministry said Mohammad Farid al-Zaarir, 15, was shot dead in the incident.

Violence linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has this year killed at least 205 Palestinians, 27 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of the attack
Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of the attack

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