Militants say attack that killed one Israeli and injured two others was a response to ‘Israeli crimes’
Stopping short of claiming responsibility for the shooting, the groups linked the attack to recent unrest in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“We in Hamas welcome the shooting action in the Hebron area, during which shots were fired at several settlers, causing the death of one and wounding of others,” said Hamas spokesman Husam Badran. “We see this action as a natural response to the crimes of the occupation [Israel] against the rights of our people and the repeated assaults on the al-Aqsa Mosque and our prisoners jailed in Israel.”
Islamic Jihad released a similar statement, hailing the attack and linking it to “settlers appropriating the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque.”
The attack took place as the seven-day Jewish Passover holiday began.
“Fire was opened at Israeli civilian vehicles on Route 35, near Hebron, and we’re conducting widespread searches for the perpetrators… An Israeli civilian was killed in the attack,” an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.
Israel’s Army Radio radio said the victim was a man, and that his wife and one of their children were those hurt.
A separate army statement said two other Israelis were wounded.
The flashpoint city of Hebron is home to nearly 200,000 Palestinians. Additionally, there are some 80 settler homes in the center of town housing about 700 Jews who live under Israeli army protection.
In September, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a suspected Palestinian gunman in the center of Hebron during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Temple Mount clashes
Tensions were running high earlier in the week in Jerusalem, after Israeli police arrested five people after Palestinians clashed with security forces at the Temple Mount compound on Sunday.
Police said “stones and Molotov cocktails” were thrown at officers, who responded using stun grenades and entered the compound. An AFP journalist said Hamas members were among the protesters.
The compound, in the walled Old City, houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and is the third most sacred site in Islam.
It is also the holiest place in Judaism, venerated as the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Clashes frequently break out there between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Muslims are intensely sensitive to any perceived threat to the status of the compound and many believe Jews are determined to build a new temple on the wide esplanade. Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, but often try to enter the compound.