A Palestinian assailant opened fire at an Israeli military checkpoint in east Jerusalem seriously wounding two people late Saturday, Israeli authorities said, hours after a pair of Palestinian teenagers were killed during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.
It was the latest bloodshed in the deadliest round of fighting in the area in seven years. It also came less than 24 hours before Israel was to begin celebrating the weeklong Sukkot holiday, a time when tens of thousands of Jews visit the holy city.
Saturday night’s shooting occurred at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. Police said the assailant opened fire, wounding a female soldier and a security guard. Israeli rescue services said the woman was in critical condition and the man was in serious condition. A third Israeli was lightly wounded.
Police said they were searching for the attacker, with special forces and a helicopter involved in the search.
“Our hearts tonight are with the wounded and their families,” said Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “Terrorism will not defeat us. We are also strong on this difficult evening.”
Daily arrest raids
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area in a move that is not recognized internationally. It considers the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important holy sites, to be its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Israel has been carrying out daily arrest raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of Palestinian attacks last spring killed 19 Israelis. Most of the military activity has been focused on the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus in the northern West Bank.
Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teens during such a raid in the Jenin refugee camp, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants.
Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the dead as Mahmoud al-Sous, 18, and Ahmad Daraghmeh, 16.
The Israeli military said it had arrested a 25-year-old operative from the Islamic Jihad militant group who has previously been imprisoned by Israel. It said the man had recently been involved in shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers.
It said soldiers opened fire during the raid when dozens of Palestinians hurled explosives and shot at them.
Just before noontime, the Israeli forces withdrew from the area.
The killing occurred a day after two Palestinian teenagers, ages 14 and 17, were killed by Israeli fire in separate incidents elsewhere in the occupied West Bank.
Almost daily violence
Rights groups accuse Israeli forces of using excessive force in their dealings with the Palestinians, without being held accountable. The Israeli military says it opens fire only in life-threatening situations.
Israel says it is forced to act because Palestinian security forces, who coordinate with the military in a tense alliance against Islamic militants, is unable or unwilling to crack down. Palestinian security forces say the military raids have undermined their credibility and public support, especially in the absence of any political process. The last round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ended in 2009.
Most of those killed are said by Israel to have been militants. But local youths protesting the incursions as well as some civilians have also been killed in the violence. Hundreds have been rounded up, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting this year.
The violence is also fueled by deepening disillusionment and anger among young Palestinians over the tight security coordination between Israel and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which work together to apprehend militants.
U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland said he was alarmed by the rising bloodshed. “The mounting violence in the occupied West Bank is fueling a climate of fear, hatred and anger,” he said in a statement, calling on the sides to reduce tensions and take steps toward reviving the political process.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in some 130 settlements and other outposts among nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want that territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for their future state.