JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said two soldiers were wounded, one severely, Saturday evening in a drive-by shooting in the occupied West Bank, the latest in months-long violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The attack was the third to take place in the Palestinian town of Hawara in less than a month. One soldier was seriously wounded and the second was in moderate condition, the military said. A manhunt was launched as forces sealed roads leading to Hawara.
The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the second largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, praised it.
“The resistance in the West Bank can surprise the occupation every time and the occupation cannot enjoy safety,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.
Violence has surged in recent months in the West Bank and east Jerusalem amid near-daily Israeli arrest raids in Palestinian-controlled areas and a string of Palestinian attacks.
U.S.-backed regional efforts to defuse tensions have led to the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jordan and Egypt respectively, where parties hoped to prevent a further escalation during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
On Feb. 27, when Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Jordan’s Aqaba, a Palestinian gunman shot and killed two Israelis in Hawara. Another shooting attack in Hawara took place as the parties met again in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, wounding two Israelis.
Eighty-six Palestinians have been killed by Israeli or settler fire this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks have killed 15 Israelis in the same period.
Israel says most of those killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.