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World News | Israeli settlers on rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2


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JERUSALEM, Feb. 27 (AP) Dozens of vehicles and vehicles were killed in a violent attack by Israeli settlers in the northern West Bank late Sunday after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman. Houses are on fire. One man was killed and four others were seriously injured in what appears to be the worst episode of settler violence in decades, Palestinian medics said.

The deadly shooting and the late-night rampage that followed immediately called into question Jordan’s statement that Israeli and Palestinian officials had pledged to quell a year-long wave of violence.

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According to Palestinian media, some 30 houses and cars were burned. Photos and videos on social media showed fires burning across the town of Hawara – the scene of a deadly shooting earlier in the day – and lighting up the sky.

In one video, throngs of Jewish settlers can be heard reading Jewish prayers for the dead as they gaze at the burning building.

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Earlier, a prominent Israeli cabinet minister and settler leader called on Israel to strike “without mercy”.

Later on Sunday, the Palestinian health ministry said a 37-year-old man had been killed by Israeli fire.

Two others were shot and wounded, a third was stabbed and a fourth was beaten with iron bars, the Palestine Red Crescent medical service said. About 95 others were treated for tear gas inhalation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called “an act of terror committed tonight by settlers under the protection of the occupying forces”.

“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm and urged against lynching violence as videos of the violence emerged on evening news shows.

“I ask that, when the blood boils and the spirit burns, don’t take the law into your own hands,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The Israeli military said its chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzl Halevy, was on the scene and troops were working to restore order. Israeli army radio quoted an anonymous official as saying that 15 houses and 25 vehicles had been burned and that the army had evacuated nine Palestinian families from their burning homes.

The riots came shortly after talks between the Jordanian government on Sunday in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, which said the two sides had agreed to take steps to ease tensions and would meet again ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan next month.

“They reaffirmed the need for a commitment to de-escalate the situation on the ground and prevent further violence,” the Jordanian foreign ministry announced.

Jordan’s announcement marks a small sign of progress after nearly a year of fighting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that killed more than 200 Palestinians and more than 40 Israelis. But the situation on the ground immediately called those promises into question.

Palestinians claim the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war – as future states. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements to be illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The West Bank is home to many hardline settlements whose residents routinely destroy Palestinian land and property. But violence is rarely so common.

Key members of Israel’s far-right government have called for tough action against the Palestinians.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the settler leader who lives in the area and is responsible for much of Israel’s West Bank policy, called for “a merciless attack on terrorist cities and their instigators with tanks and helicopters”.

In terms that demanded a harsher response, he said Israel should act “in a way that communicates that its master is crazy.”

An Israeli ministerial committee has given preliminary approval to a bill that would impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of deadly attacks. The measure has been sent to lawmakers for further debate.

There are also different interpretations of what exactly the Palestinians and Israelis agreed to in Aqaba.

The Jordanian foreign ministry said the delegates agreed to work towards a “just and lasting peace” and pledged to maintain the status quo at the disputed holy site in Jerusalem.

Tensions at the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and holy by Muslims, have often turned violent, sparking an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas militant group during Ramadan two years ago.

The most right-wing government official in Israel’s history played down Sunday’s meeting.

A senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with government guidelines, said only that Jordan had agreed to form a committee to work on restoring secure relations with the Palestinians. The Palestinians severed ties with Palestine last month after Israel launched a deadly military attack on the West Bank.

Chachi Haneby, Netanyahu’s national security adviser who led the Israeli delegation, said there was “no change” in Israeli policy and plans approved last week to build thousands of new settlement houses would not be affected.

He said there was “no settlement freeze” and “no restrictions on army activity”.

The Jordanian statement said Israel had pledged not to legalize any outposts within six months, or to approve any new construction in existing settlements within four months.

Meanwhile, Palestinians say they have raised a long list of grievances, including an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land and a halt to Israeli military raids on Palestinian towns.

Sunday’s shooting in Hawala came days after Israeli forces attacked the nearby city of Nablus, killing 10 Palestinians. The shooting happened on a major road serving Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The two men killed were identified as brothers, aged 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha.

Hanegbi joined talks in neighboring Jordan with the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency. The head of Palestinian intelligence and an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas also attended the meeting.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is close to the Palestinians, chaired the discussions, which were also joined by another mediator, Egypt and the United States.

In Washington, US national security adviser Jack Sullivan welcomed the meeting. “We recognize that this meeting is a starting point,” he said, adding that iImplementation will be critical.

It was a rare high-level meeting between the two sides, illustrating the magnitude of the crisis and fears of increased violence as Ramadan approaches in late March.

In Gaza, Islamist militant group Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, criticized Sunday’s meeting, saying the shooting was a “natural response” to Israel’s invasion of the West Bank.

Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005. The Hamas militant group then took control of the territory, which is under a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)


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