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US expresses alarm over Israeli, Palestinian civilians killed in West Bank

State Department issues relatively rare statement offering condolences for those killed in past 48 hours, highlighting Ariel terror attack while urging sides to restore calm

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israeli security and medics at the scene of a terror attack, at the entrance to Ariel industrial zone, in the West Bank, on November 15, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/ Flash90)
Israeli security and medics at the scene of a terror attack, at the entrance to Ariel industrial zone, in the West Bank, on November 15, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/ Flash90)

The US State Department on Tuesday expressed alarm over the spike in killings of Israeli and Palestinian civilians and urged the parties to take action to restore calm.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the increased violence in the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“We convey profound condolences to the families and loved ones of the Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children, who have been killed in the past 48 hours,” Price said in a relatively rare statement that was released independently from the day’s press briefing hours earlier.

Price highlighted the terror attack that took place in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on Tuesday in which a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis and wounded three others.

According to the IDF, the Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard near the entrance to the Ariel Industrial Park. The attacker then stabbed three people at a nearby gas station, before he fled in an apparently stolen vehicle.

Shortly afterward, the terrorist crashed the vehicle into other cars on the Route 5 highway, before getting out and stabbing another person, according to medics. He then stole another vehicle and drove it against traffic, crashing into more cars, before he got out and was shot dead by soldiers and armed civilians.

The State Department statement did not specify any additional killings but appeared to also reference the death of 15-year-old Fulla Maslama, who was shot by Israeli forces during a pre-dawn raid near Ramallah on Monday.

Victims of a terror attack near the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on November 15, 2022., Tamir Avihai (L) Michael Ladygin (C) and Motti Ashkenazi(R). (Courtesy)

The circumstances surrounding the incident were not fully clear. The IDF said soldiers opened fire on a vehicle that was accelerating toward them after they signaled for it to stop.

But a witness told The Associated Press that the girl’s car posed no apparent danger to the Israeli troops, some of whom were crouched behind a line of parked cars and could not have been easily visible to an approaching driver.

UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland tweeted that he was “appalled by the tragic killing” and urged Israel to conduct an “immediate and thorough investigation.”

“We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack,” Price said, adding that “the recent period has seen a sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including numerous children. It is vital that the parties take urgent action to prevent further loss of life.”

Although Price highlighted the Palestinian terror attack, linking Israeli and Palestinian deaths will likely irk Jerusalem. US-Israeli ties were already on edge following the Justice Department’s decision to launch an FBI investigation into the killing in May of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Fulla Maslama,15, in the West Bank village of Beit Awwa, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israel has acknowledged that the Al Jazeera reporter was likely killed by one of its soldiers but insists that it was not intentional and that its own investigation into the matter was sufficient.

Both outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel would not cooperate with the FBI investigation.

The US had previously expressed its concern over West Bank violence that has spiked since the start of the year.

Israeli security forces have stepped up their operations in the West Bank following a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people in the spring. Since September, another three Israeli civilians have been killed in attacks.

Four soldiers have also been killed in the West Bank in attacks and during the arrest operations.

The military’s operation has made more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, and has left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

Biden administration officials have encouraged their Israeli counterparts to bolster security coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which has been credited recently for helping stifle the Lion’s Den terror group that had been active in the northern West Bank.

However, the US has also maintained that Israeli-Palestinian security coordination is insufficient on its own and additional steps must be taken to improve Palestinian conditions.

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