A Palestinian father and a young boy who were seriously wounded in an exchange of gunfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank were apparently hit by Israeli fire, the military said late Thursday.
An earlier report had suggested the father and boy, a three-year-old, were likely hit by Palestinian fire when the gunmen shot at an Israeli military post near the settlement.
The Israel Defense Forces said that following an initial investigation, it appeared two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the West Bank settlement of Neve Tzuf (also known as Halamish), near the Palestinian town of Nabi Saleh on Thursday night and that troops stationed at the adjacent army post on Route 465 returned fire.
Moments after the exchange, a Palestinian man and his child appeared at the entrance to Neve Tzuf with serious injuries to seek medical help.
It appeared that “as a result of the gunfire by the [Israeli] forces, two Palestinians were hurt,” the military said in a statement, adding that it “regrets the harm” to noncombatants. A probe into the incident was underway, it said.
The military was searching for the suspected shooters, the IDF added.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics treated the three-year-old boy in critical condition and the man in his forties in serious condition. The toddler was rushed to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan by military helicopter, while the man was taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent to a hospital in the West Bank. The Israeli hospital said the young boy remained in critical condition.
The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service had initially said that the two Palestinians arrived near the IDF post when it came under fire, and were thought to have been hit by the gunshots fired by the Palestinian attackers.
Separately, Israeli troops stationed near the West Bank village of Dayr Sharaf came under Palestinian fire from “deep within the city of Nablus” early Friday morning, and one soldier was lightly wounded, the military said. The soldier was taken to hospital for treatment.
Over the past year, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops carrying out arrest raids, military posts, Israeli settlements and civilians on roads.
The shooting on Thursday night came two days after an Israeli man was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been elevated for the past year, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, in the wake of a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
The IDF said that during arrest raids early Thursday troops detained 19 wanted Palestinians. During operations early Friday, two suspects were detained, including one suspected of opening fire at an IDF ambulance in the southern West Bank on Monday, the IDF said.
A string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank has killed 20 people since the start of this year and left several more seriously hurt.
At least 114 West Bank Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year — most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians or were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.