A Jewish settler was shot and killed while driving in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, further raising tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the area.
Meir Tamari was hit by seven bullets from a passing vehicle. He was seriously injured but managed to drive to the entrance of his home settlement of Hermesh nearby, and after receiving emergency medical treatment was evacuated to an Israeli hospital where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.
Israel said two Palestinian militants carried out the attack – the gunman and his driver.
Palestinian militants from the nearby West Bank city of Tulkarem, loosely affiliated with the Fatah military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, claimed responsibility for the shooting.
“This operation isn’t sufficient for revenge,” a statement by the group said. “We’ll continue to act to avenge the blood of the organisation’s fighters and the mothers of the martyrs.”
Hamas spokesperson Abdellatif al-Kanou said the attack was “evidence of the determination of the Palestinian people to continue the fight against the occupation”.
Israeli troops launched a large search operation in the northern West Bank to find the perpetrators.
“Our forces are currently in pursuit of the terrorists in order to settle accounts with them, and they will be settled forthwith, said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Just as we have found every terrorist and closed accounts with them, we will do so this time as well.”
Dimiter Tzantchev, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, condemned the shooting.
“I’m shocked and saddened by yet another shooting attack in the West Bank, which killed an Israeli father of two,” he said. “I condemn this cowardly act of violence ... We stand together against terrorism, which needs to be rejected by all.”
The attack came two days after settlers renewed their presence in one of the four West Bank Jewish communities evacuated under the terms of the Gaza disengagement, which saw Israel withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip. The Israeli army opposed establishing the yeshiva religious seminary in the Homesh settlement and military officials warned that the move could lead to increased attacks by Palestinian militants.
The northern West Bank has emerged as the centre of militant activity over the last few years – particularly in the cities of Nablus and Jenin and, in recent months, Tulkarem. The Israeli army carries out near-nightly raids in the West Bank in efforts to detain wanted gunmen.
At least 112 West Bank Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of this year – most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with Israeli troops, but some were civilians or were killed under circumstances that are still being investigated.