Clashes broke out in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday after the Israeli army entered the city hunting for a Palestinian gunman who killed two soldiers at a bus stop.
The morning attack, which followed days of violence in the West Bank, took place at a stop near a settlement where a Palestinian man stepped out of his car and opened fire on soldiers and civilians, the Israeli army said. Two others were wounded, one of them critically, while the attacker fled the scene.
Israeli forces later encircled Ramallah, sealing off access roads, raiding neighbourhoods and clashing with Palestinian demonstrators in several spots.
Soldiers also shot dead a Palestinian in what the army said was an attempted car ramming in the Al-Bireh neighbourhood of Ramallah.
"Security forces who were present at the scene fired towards the terrorist and neutralised him," the military said in a statement, adding that one soldier had been lightly injured when the man tried to "run over" troops.
In a separate attack, an assailant stabbed two Israeli border police in Jerusalem’s Old City before being shot dead, in the most turbulent 24 hours in the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.
The army declined to comment on the clampdown on the city, the Palestinians’ economic and administrative centre – an unusual step that signalled the severity with which Israel views the violence in the West Bank this week.
The flare-up began with a shooting outside a West Bank settlement on Sunday, resulting in the death of a baby who was delivered prematurely following the weekend attack, and continued with the killing of two Palestinians wanted in that and an earlier attack on Israelis in the West Bank.
The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip said yesterday that the two Palestinians killed, Salah Barghouti and Ashraf Naalweh, were its "fighters", hailing their attacks as "heroic".
"The flame of resistance in the (West) Bank will remain alive until the occupation is defeated on all our land," Hamas said.
While the West Bank experiences occasional deadly violence, often between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters, much of the Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed in recent months has been limited to the Gaza Strip, where some 175 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in border protests.
"In recent days, we definitely feel like the situation (in the West Bank) is getting worse," Shalom Galil, a paramedic who assisted at the scene of the shooting, told Israeli Army Radio.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim the territories for their hoped-for state.
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