Israel troops wounded in Jerusalem car-ramming as violence flares

JERUSALEM – A car-ramming targeting Israeli troops in Jerusalem wounded 14 people Thursday, February 6, and two Palestinians were shot dead in the occupied West Bank, in rising violence following Washington's controversial Middle East peace plan.

A third person was killed by Israeli officers near the entrance to the Old City in annexed East Jerusalem after firing on police, lightly injuring one.

A manhunt was underway for the driver in the car-ramming, who fled the scene in the heart of west Jerusalem after the attack, which took place shortly before 2 am (0000 GMT).

The attacker struck on the road where the soldiers had been marching, the army said, adding that one of the troops was "severely injured" and rushed to hospital.

Public radio said they were new recruits on their way to an induction ceremony at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver had been identified.

"The vehicle was found and now there is a manhunt taking place by counterterrorism and military units for the terrorist. We know his identity," Rosenfeld told Agence France-Presse at the scene.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "it is only a question of time – and not much time – until we apprehend the attacker.

"Terrorism will not defeat us; we will win!"

The Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, hailed the car-ramming as a "practical response" to US President Donald Trump's peace proposal.

In a statement, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the attack was part of the "resistance operation" but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

Soaring tensions

In an interview published on Hamas's official website, the group's leader Ismail Haniya said it would "continue in our strategy of building up force, including in the West Bank and Jerusalem, until we can liberate our homeland."

The Palestinians have angrily rejected Trump's plan, which unilaterally gives Israel most of what it has sought in previous negotiations.

Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was scheduled to meet behind closed doors with UN Security Council members on Thursday to present the plan, which he drew up.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is due at the UN next week to express opposition to the US initiative.

While the initial Palestinian response to the plan saw little violence, tensions have soared in recent days.

In the northern West Bank town of Jenin on Thursday, Israeli forces shot dead two people – 19-year-old Yazan Abu Tabikh and Palestinian policeman Tareq Badwan.

The Israeli army said it had gone to the area to demolish the home of a Palestinian involved in the killing of a Jewish settler in 2018.

Troops then shot at Palestinians who had "hurled explosive devices and fired towards them," the army said.

Palestinian sources said that Abu Tabikh was among the protesters when he was killed, but Badwan was in the courtyard of a police station close to the clashes when he was hit.

Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters troops had shot a member of the Palestinian security forces and the army was investigating.

"The specific situation is unclear," he said. "Whether he fired at Israeli troops and then they retaliated and he was injured, or somebody else fired at Israeli troops and they retaliated and he was caught in the middle."

Gaza flare-up

There was an additional exchange of gunfire at the Parnasa junction near Ramallah in the West Bank that wounded one Israeli soldier, the army said.

In the shooting at the entrance of Jerusalem's walled Old City, police identified the gunman as a resident of northern Israel who recently converted to Islam and is known to authorities over previous crimes.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli aircraft struck Hamas positions early Thursday, after Palestinians fired rockets or mortar rounds at Israel and launched incendiary balloons.

"Fighter jets and (other) aircraft targeted Hamas terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip," an army statement said.

Since Trump's plan was announced, there has been almost daily fire from Gaza into southern Israel, drawing Israeli retaliation.

There have been no reported casualties. – Rappler.com