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article imagePalestinian gunman kills three Israelis at settlement

By Mike Smith (AFP)     Sep 26, 2017 in World

A Palestinian opened fire at Israeli security personnel on Tuesday at the entrance to a West Bank settlement where he had worked, killing three and wounding another before being shot dead, police said.

The attack, which came as US envoy Jason Greenblatt was due in Jerusalem for talks on relaunching the moribund Middle East peace process, drew condemnation from Israeli officials who called for action from the Palestinian leadership.

It also occurred in the middle of the Jewish high holiday period, when Israeli-Palestinian violence has erupted in the past, and led police to order reinforcements to prevent further unrest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded a clear condemnation of the attack from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, adding that the gunman's home would be demolished and Israeli work permits withdrawn from his extended family.

The target of the attack was Har Adar, a well-to-do settlement northwest of Jerusalem, high in the hills close to the Green Line that separates the occupied West Bank from Israel.

The windows of the guard booth at its northeastern entrance, where Palestinian day labourers are required to undergo security checks, had been shattered by gunfire, an AFP correspondent reported.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the gunman, who had a permit to work in the settlement and had previously worked there "many times," had concealed himself among other Palestinian labourers.

Har Adar
Har Adar
Vincent LEFAI, AFP

"He hesitated and then all of a sudden, several metres (yards) before a security check, pulled out a nine-millimetre weapon and opened fire directly at the two private security guards, who were shot and killed directly at the scene," Rosenfeld said.

He also fired at a nearby border policeman, who was left dead, while two other officers shot and killed him.

- Work permits under review -

Israel's Shin Bet internal security service identified the gunman as Nimer Aljamal, a 37-year-old father of four from the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Surik with no previous "security background".

"The preliminary investigation indicates that he had significant personal and family problems, including those regarding family violence," it said in a statement.

"His wife fled to Jordan several weeks ago and left him with their children."

Rosenfeld described Aljamal's profile as "very unusual" by comparison with others who have carried out lone-wolf attacks during a wave of unrest that has hit Israel and the Palestinian territories over the past two years.

He said there would have to be a security review of work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel and the settlements, with tens of thousands granted.

Israeli authorities later raided Beit Surik and Aljamal's home, while arresting his older brother.

"We were surprised this morning with the news because we did not have prior knowledge," said Aljamal's uncle, Issa Jamal.

Aljamal's aunt Rihab Jamal said: "We were shocked. May he rest in peace. He wanted to be a martyr and he got it."

Netanyahu called on the Palestinian president to condemn the attack.

"I expect (Abbas) to condemn the attack and not try to justify it," he said.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, hailed the attack as "revenge for the crime of occupation against our people."

Members of the Israeli security forces inspect the shattered glass of the guard booth at the entranc...
Members of the Israeli security forces inspect the shattered glass of the guard booth at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Har Adar where a Palestinian gunman killed three Israelis before being shot dead on September 26, 2017

The UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov condemned both the attack and the Hamas reaction.

"It is deplorable that Hamas and others continue to glorify such attacks, which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis," he said.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlements, said on Twitter "once again, Israelis confront the cruel and evil brutality of unprovoked terrorism."

- 'This place is quiet' -

Police named the border policeman killed as Solomon Gavria, 20.

The other two victims were identified as Youssef Ottman, 25, and Or Arish, 25.

Har Adar resident Steve Leibowitz, 65, said the settlement's proximity to the Green Line had always made it feel safe.

"This place is quiet. We're inside the West Bank but we have a border fence and we feel as though we are inside Israel and safe," he told AFP.

"Until today I haven't locked my doors in years. Now I will be locking the doors."

The latest attack comes nearly two years after a wave of unrest broke out.

The violence had greatly subsided in recent months but Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman warned in a briefing to the cabinet earlier this month that the risk of new attacks was ever present.

West Bank settlements are a source of significant tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and have been a major sticking point in peace talks.

Israeli security forces and emergency teams gather at the scene of an attack at the entrance to the ...
Israeli security forces and emergency teams gather at the scene of an attack at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Har Adar after a Palestinian opened fire on security personnel before being shot dead on September 26, 2017

The UN envoy told the Security Council on Monday that Israel continues to build settlements "at a high rate," in defiance of Security Council demands for an end to their expansion.

The international community regards all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, as illegal.

They are seen as major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.


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