2 soldiers shot in West Bank, 3 Palestinians killed by gunfire amid unrest

Troops hospitalized with leg wounds; source of shooting that killed two demonstrators unclear; clashes also break out in Jerusalem

Israeli security forces face off with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 18, 2021 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Israeli security forces face off with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 18, 2021 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Two Israeli soldiers were injured by gunfire on Tuesday near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as thousands of Palestinians violently rioted at the entrance to the nearby city of Ramallah and throughout the West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops had returned fire toward the source of the attack from within the demonstration after the two soldiers were hit by gunfire, but could not immediately comment on Palestinian casualties.

Three Palestinian protesters were reported shot dead during the clashes with Israeli forces.

Two of them were shot in Beit El, and it was not immediately clear who shot them given that there was gunfire from both sides.

A third Palestinian, Bil’in resident Islam Fahmi, was shot in the head near his hometown during clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said. He arrived at Ramallah’s main public hospital in critical condition before passing away.

The Israeli military said that a violent riot had erupted on the scene in Bil’in. Soldiers responded to the riot with live fire and riot dispersal means, the army said.

In Beit El, the military said shots fired at the soldiers came from at least two gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles — somewhat difficult weapons to obtain in the West Bank — potentially indicating the attack was carried out by people with ties to a terror group.

The IDF said it was searching for the gunmen.

The soldiers were hospitalized at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, with the hospital describing their condition as stable. The two soldiers — one male conscript, one female officer — were shot in their legs, according to the army.

The Beit El incident came as some 2,000 Palestinian protesters gathered on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza and Jerusalem. They burned tires and hurled stones at the Israeli troops, who fired tear gas at them. At one point, seven shots rang out, but it was unclear where they came from. Israeli soldiers on a hillside opposite the protest could be seen taking cover behind mounds of sandbags.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said three Palestinian protesters had been killed: 25-year-old Muhammad Hamid; 16-year-old Islam Fahmi; and Adham Fayez Kashif. It said 70 others were wounded, including 16 people with bullet wounds. Seven of them were in serious condition.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the West Bank, on May 17, 2021 (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Palestinians have declared a general strike in the West Bank, which was also being observed by Arab Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Riots and protests were also ongoing on Tuesday afternoon at 25 locations throughout the West Bank, according to Channel 12 news.

There have been numerous reports of gunfire directed at Israeli soldiers during the riots, the network said.

Israeli police officers seen during clashes with Palestinian protesters at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Clashes between Palestinians and police were also reported in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon at Damascus Gate.

Police said they arrested eight suspects who assaulted officers with rocks and fireworks.

After being forced away from the Old City by police forces, hundreds of Palestinians began rioting in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

As the rioters reportedly threw stun grenades, police forces arrived with horses and water cannons to try to control the unrest.

A Palestinian man hurls a tear gas canister during protests and riots in the West Bank town of Hebron, May 18, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem has increased since terror groups in the Gaza Strip began firing rockets at Israel last Monday amid rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions centered on Jerusalem, setting off the worst flare-up of fighting in seven years.

At least 24 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since hostilities began between Israel and Hamas last Monday. The Israeli army said several were attempting to commit terror attacks, while others were shot by soldiers during violent clashes.

Earlier Tuesday, a Palestinian man tried to attack soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, opening fire with a submachine gun and trying to throw a pipe bomb, before he was shot and killed by troops at the scene, the army said.

The explosive device reportedly went off in the assailant’s hand as he tried to throw it at the soldiers. The IDF said the assailant was also carrying a knife.

Palestinian demonstrators chant slogans and wave their national flags during protests against Israel in Hebron, May 18, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

A Palestinian man was shot and killed Monday evening by IDF troops near the al-Aroub Refugee Camp close to the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian media reported. The circumstances that led to 18-year-old Obeida Akram Jawabrah’s death were not clear. The Ynet news site cited Palestinian medical sources who said Jawabrah was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.

The IDF said that forces at the scene identified two suspects throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles traveling nearby and an attempt to arrest the suspects ended in the shooting. No further details were given.

Also on Monday evening, the IDF said shots were fired from a passing car at soldiers stationed outside Hebron. There were no reports of injuries.

The two incidents came hours after the IDF said that an assailant tried to ram his vehicle into troops at Hawara in the northern West Bank, hitting a military vehicle. No soldiers were injured and the assailant was arrested, the IDF said in a statement.

Israeli security forces inspect on May 16, 2021, the scene of a car-ramming attack that wounded several police officers, in the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

On Sunday, seven Border Police soldiers were injured, including two moderately, in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah. According to police, the Palestinian assailant rammed his car into a temporary police checkpoint, running over a number of officers. The assailant, a resident of East Jerusalem, was shot dead by the officers, according to media reports.

On Saturday night a Palestinian was shot dead while attempting to commit a ramming attack near Dahariyya Junction in the southern West Bank, the military said.

Also on Saturday, IDF troops opened fire on an Israeli vehicle that swerved toward them in the West Bank, apparently thinking the accelerating vehicle was attempting an attack. The family in the car said they were trying to get away from burning tires lit by Palestinian rioters. No one was hurt.

On Friday a man tried to ram and then stab a soldier near the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The attacker was shot dead.

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