TV: Suspect in attempted West Bank shooting was Palestinian police officer
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TV: Suspect in attempted West Bank shooting was Palestinian police officer

Man tried to open fire on Israeli motorists near Nablus, but gun apparently jammed; Wednesday attack comes amid tension over Palestinian decision to end security cooperation

The scene of an attempted terror attack near the Hawara Junction in the northern West Bank on May 20, 2020. (Samaria Regional Council)
The scene of an attempted terror attack near the Hawara Junction in the northern West Bank on May 20, 2020. (Samaria Regional Council)

The suspect in an attempted shooting attack against Israeli motorists in the West Bank earlier this week was a Palestinian police officer, Channel 13 reported Friday.

The report said the involvement of a Palestinian Authority officer was a worrying development, noting that it had been a long time since a PA policeman was involved in a terror attack. However, Israeli forces did kill two Palestinian officers in a raid in January, apparently by mistake.

The report comes as the PA was making good on its threat to end security coordination with Israel over the new Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Palestinian security forces were retreating from areas near East Jerusalem Friday after the Palestinian Authority ended its security coordination with Israel, multiple reports indicated, citing Palestinian officials.

File: Palestinian policemen in the West Bank town of Nablus (AP Photo / Nasser Ishtayeh)

According to Kan news, the gesture was largely symbolic — a few officers moving out of the East Jerusalem satellite towns of Azzariyah, Abu Dis, Biddu and Beit Ichsa, after getting special permission from Israel to be there as part of the effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Channel 13 said that the PA had sent messages to Israel saying that despite ending the cooperation, it would not allow terror attacks against Israelis or a mass popular uprising.

However, as the shooting incident highlighted, it could be difficult for the Palestinians to do both.

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that at an attempted shooting earlier in the day in the West Bank was being investigated as a terror attack.

Citing eyewitnesses, the military said a Palestinian suspect pulled a gun and tried to fire at a car carrying Israeli passengers near the town of Hawara in the northern West Bank.

“The driver of the vehicle discerned the threat and began a pursuit of the suspect that included gunfire. The suspect fled,” the army said.

A statement from the Shomron Regional Council, which has jurisdiction over settlements in the area, said the driver got out the vehicle and fired two shots in the air to drive off the suspect.

Two Israeli hitchhikers, aged 14 and 15, were also in the car, the statement said. It quoted one of them describing how the suspect “cocked the gun and pressed on the trigger several times,” indicating it jammed.

The IDF said no one was injured in the incident and did not report any arrests.

In addition to security cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces, civil ties between Israel and the PA were also set to cease.

Defense officials warned that the halting of cooperation between Israel and the PA could lead to rising violence, with more clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians.

The severing of the agreements came after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday the Palestinians were no longer bound by agreements with Israel and the US, citing the new government’s plan to move forward with annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley as early as July 1.

For years, Abbas has made similar threats on numerous occasions to end security ties with Israel and dissolve the PA, but never followed through.

The attempted attack comes amid an uptick in violence in the West Bank over the past week, following a relative lull amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, who was killed when a rock was thrown at his head during an arrest raid in the northern West Bank village of Yabed on May 12, 2020. (Social media)

Last week, Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal was killed during a raid in the town of Yabed after a rock thrown by someone on the roof of a three-story building struck him in the face.

Israeli troops made numerous arrests in Yabed after Ben-Ygal was killed, but the military has yet to announce the capture of the suspected perpetrator.

Days later, a soldier was injured in a suspected car-ramming attack in the southern West Bank.

The driver of the vehicle was shot dead by another soldier at the scene, the military said.

Israeli troops search for the person who threw a brick at Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, killing him, in the West Bank village of Yabed on May 13, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Also last week, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead during clashes with Israeli troops in the al-Fawar refugee camp.

Israeli defense officials have warned of a potential outbreak of violence in response to plans by the government to unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank, as well because of the coronavirus-related economic woes of the Palestinian Authority.

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