Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in clashes in the occupied West Bank on Thursday and a third in Jerusalem after he opened fire at police, hours after a car-ramming attack elsewhere in the city wounded 12 Israeli soldiers.
Long-simmering Palestinian unrest has been stoked by anger at U.S. 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.
The violence began early Thursday, when a Palestinian motorist slammed his car into a group of Israeli soldiers, wounding 12 before fleeing the scene, the Israeli military said.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said one of the 12 soldiers was seriously hurt and the others were lightly wounded as they took part in a late-night tour near a popular entertainment district in Jerusalem.
Police later announced that they had arrested the assailant in the West Bank. They identified him as a 25-year-old from east Jerusalem.
While it did not claim responsibility for the attack, the Islamic Jihad militant group praised the car ramming as “the beginning of a new confrontation over Trump’s plan.”
In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians when clashes broke out while they were demolishing the home of an alleged militant, according to the Palestinian health ministry, which said another five Palestinians were hurt.
Jenin governor Akram Rajoub said one of the fatalities was a 19-year-old student at an academy that trains police officers. The other was a member of the security forces who was shot while standing outside a police station nearby.
Conricus said troops were demolishing the home of a militant allegedly involved in a deadly attack. He said there was a “sizeable riot” at the scene by Palestinians who threw firebombs and that a sniper also fired at troops. Conricus said forces responded with their own sniper fire, killing a Palestinian shooter.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian during clashes with demonstrators elsewhere in the West Bank.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, an Arab citizen of Israel opened fire at police, lightly wounding one of them, before officers responded by shooting and killing him, the police said. Arab citizens make up around 20 per cent of Israel’s population and largely identify with the Palestinians.
The Old City is part of annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want both as part of their future state.
Another shooting took place near the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, where the military said an assailant opened fire at soldiers, lightly wounding one of them before fleeing. “Troops responded with fire and are currently pursuing the assailant,” the military said.
Conricus, the military spokesman, said Israeli forces are “not trying to escalate the situation while understanding the complexity and sensitivity of the situation.” He stopped short of linking the violence to Trump’s Mideast proposal.
Exchange of fire
The Palestinians, who have long shunned the Trump administration, accusing it of bias toward 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,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“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.”
Meanwhile, 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 spokesperson Hazem Qassem said.