Border Police officers shot and killed four Palestinians who set off explosive devices in an apparent attempt to breach the West Bank security barrier on Friday as the war in Gaza threatened to spill over onto a second front.
The effort to blow up a stretch of the barrier came amid an increase in terror attacks in the West Bank, sweeping Israeli raids against terror suspects, and deadly attacks on Palestinians by settlers.
In a statement, police said Border Police officers spotted the four suspects approaching the fence near the Nitsanei HaShalom Industrial Zone, close to Tulkarem, and setting off several bombs.
Video from the scene appeared to show damage to the barrier as smoke rose in the air.
The officers then opened fire, killing them, police said.
The incident comes a week after Hamas terrorists from Gaza managed to blow up several sections of the Gaza security barrier, allowing several thousand heavily armed gunmen to swarm through and attack Israeli bases and communities along the border, killing more than 1,300 people, most of them civilians, and taking between 150-200 captives to Gaza.
While much of the world’s attention has been focused on the atrocities committed by Hamas and the Israel Defense Force response in Gaza, the West Bank has also seen a sharp rise in violence.
According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, at least 44 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since October 7.
The IDF said troops have arrested 220 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including 130 affiliated with Hamas, since fighting began last weekend in southern Israel.
On Thursday night alone 32 Hamas members were arrested by the IDF, among them senior members detained in Hebron, the military said.
There have been several clashes between IDF forces and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent days as Palestinians rallied in support of Hamas, and several attempted terror attacks.
There have also been a series of violent settler attacks on Palestinians.
An Israeli settler shot and severely injured a Palestinian from point-blank range during a confrontation in the At-Tuwani village in the South Hebron Hills on Friday morning.
In a video sent by the B’Tselem human rights organization, a settler armed with an assault rifle is seen at first standing in a wasteland behind a large rock with several unarmed Palestinian men close by.
תיעוד: מתנחל ירה מטווח אפס בפלסטיני בכפר א-תוואני pic.twitter.com/2K6or6V80j
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) October 13, 2023
The Israeli man then approached one of the Palestinians, hit him with his rifle and despite the Palestinian taking a step or two backwards fired at him from point-blank range at his abdomen.
An IDF soldier was then seen approaching the scene of the incident and escorting the shooter together with another individual, also apparently a settler, away from the scene.
In a subsequent video also posted by B’Tselem the man is seen bleeding from his wound but apparently conscious and being loaded into a car to take him to hospital.
A police spokesperson for the Judea District said they were aware of the incident, that they know the assailant’s identity and that he will be questioned.
The spokesperson confirmed that the assailant was an Israeli settler and resident of one of the settlements or illegal outposts in the South Hebron Hills region.
Six Palestinians have reportedly been killed by settlers in the West Bank in two separate incidents in the last three days.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry said on Thursday that two Palestinians were killed after Israeli settlers opened fire on a funeral procession near the West Bank town of Qusra, south of Nablus.
According to the Palestinian Authority’s WAFA news agency, ambulances were carrying the bodies of four Palestinians who were shot dead a day earlier, reportedly also by Israeli settlers, when settlers arrived at the scene and attempted to halt the funeral procession.
Amid the surge in violence, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman earlier Friday urging efforts to calm the West Bank, the State Department said.
Blinken in the meeting “reiterated the United States’ unequivocal condemnation of the abhorrent terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel [and] detailed US efforts to coordinate with partners to prevent the conflict from widening,” according to the US readout.
Blinken “extended his condolences to the families of Palestinian civilian victims of this conflict, and reiterated that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to dignity, freedom, justice and self-determination.”
The secretary thanked “Abbas and his team for their work to further calm the situation for the benefit of Palestinians, Israelis, and the tens of thousands of Americans who also call the West Bank home.”
‘Blinken reaffirmed the US commitment to cooperation with the Palestinian leadership and people on efforts to ensure security for all,” the US readout said.
Abbas blasted settler terrorism in the West Bank against Palestinians and stressed his rejection of targeting civilians on both sides, without explicitly condemning Hamas.
Abbas also called for a two-state solution with Israel on the pre-1967 lines.