Israeli killed in West Bank 'terrorist' attack: army


Jerusalem (AFP)

An Israeli was killed Sunday and two others wounded in stabbing and shooting attacks believed to have been carried out by a Palestinian assailant in the occupied West Bank, the army said.

The attacks come at a sensitive time ahead of Israel's April 9 elections, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to apprehend the "terrorists" behind it.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, welcomed the attack, but did not claim responsibility for it.

"One Israeli is dead," Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said of the attacks near the Ariel junction southwest of Nablus, carried out by a "terrorist" who "appears to be Palestinian".

The incident began with the perpetrator attacking a soldier with a knife at the Ariel junction, near an Israeli settlement by the same name, and snatching his weapon, Conricus said.

"That same assailant fired with that weapon toward three vehicles," he said, with the third car targeted stopping.

"The terrorist took the vehicle and used it to drive" to the nearby Gitai Avishar junction, where he opened fire and wounded another soldier, Conricus said.

The assailant then continued to the nearby Palestinian village of Bruqin.

"A manhunt is ongoing," Conricus said.

Medics said they evacuated two Israeli men, aged 16 and 20, to hospital with both suffering bullet wounds and in serious condition.

Conricus did not provide details on the identity of the person killed, nor say if the person had been stabbed or shot.

The army also did not say whether the suspected Palestinian assailant was affiliated with a militant group or had acted alone.

- 'Deal with them' -

Palestinian gun, knife or car-ramming attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers occur sporadically in the West Bank.

Two soldiers were shot dead in a December 13 attack in the Ramallah area, and another shooting attack nearby on December 9 resulted in the death of a baby and wounded seven others.

Speaking at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he was certain Israeli security forces would apprehend "the terrorists".

"We will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law as we have done in all of the recent incidents," he said.

Hamas called it a response to Israeli "crimes," including its actions at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the highly sensitive holy site where there have been scuffles in recent weeks.

The compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem is the third-holiest site in Islam and a focus of Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

It is also the location of Judaism's most sacred spot, revered as the site of the two biblical-era Jewish temples.

There have been scuffles in recent weeks between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police over the use of a side building there known as the Golden Gate.

On Sunday, an Israeli court ordered the temporary closure of the side building.