Three Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and police officers took place within 12 hours on Thursday, leaving 14 service members wounded.
Two members of the Palestinian security services were also killed, at least one who was apparently mistaken for a terrorist by an Israeli sniper, as violence soared amid Palestinian anger at the US administration’s peace plan announced last week.
Palestinian leaders said the violence was an inevitable result of the plan’s “pro-Israel bias”, while Israeli officials accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging the attacks.
The Israel Defense Forces has been on a heightened state of alert since the publication of the peace plan on January 28, and has sent three waves of reinforcements to the West Bank, including an additional battalion of combat troops on Thursday.
At about 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, a Palestinian attacker rammed his car into a group of soldiers from the Golani infantry brigade who were on a tour of Jerusalem near the city’s First Station pedestrian shopping area.
Twelve soldiers were injured, one seriously.
The suspect, Sanad al-Turman, a 25-year-old resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, was arrested at the Gush Etzion Junction in the central West Bank by Thursday evening, after he allegedly fleeing to Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, abandoning his car in the nearby suburb of Beit Jala.
Channel 13 news reported he owned a flower shop in a Jerusalem shopping mall.
The troops were visiting Jerusalem ahead of their planned swearing-in ceremony in the morning, which was delayed because of the attack but eventually went ahead Thursday evening.
Several of the wounded soldiers, some of them on crutches, left the hospital to attend the event.
After a round of emergency surgery, the severely wounded serviceman was said to be in stable but serious condition at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. “He is unconscious and connected to a respirator in the intensive care unit,” hospital officials said Thursday.
The army’s manhunt in Bethlehem throughout the day sparked small-scale clashes in the city and surrounding areas. Palestinian media reported that Israeli troops seized security cameras around Bethlehem, apparently as part of the search effort.
Shooting in Jerusalem
Just before noon on Thursday, a man walked up to police officers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and opened fire, lightly wounding one of the officers. He fled on foot, but was soon shot and killed by pursuing officers.
The shooter was identified as Shadi Bana, 45, an Arab Israeli from Haifa. He also owned a flower shop, and was liked by both Jewish and Arab neighbors, according to Channel 13 news.
He’d reportedly converted from Christianity to Islam recently.
By the afternoon, a third attack targeted Israeli security forces, this time a drive-by shooting on a highway near the central West Bank settlement of Dolev.
The gunman fled the scene to a nearby village, with Israeli troops in pursuit, the IDF said.
One of the bullets fired by the gunman struck the helmet of an IDF soldier, but the helmet absorbed the hit and the soldier was only lightly hurt.
Palestinian cops killed
As the clashes and violence intensified, two separate incidents Thursday saw Israeli soldiers shoot and kill members of Palestinian security forces, dealing a blow to the continuing security coordination between the sides.
A Palestinian Authority police cadet was shot dead, apparently by mistake, amid clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli troops during the demolition of a terrorist’s home in the northern West Bank city of Jenin in the predawn hours of Thursday morning.
A second man, a PA police officer, died later Thursday when he succumbed to his wounds after he was shot by Israeli troops in Jenin in what the military said were unclear circumstances.
Minor clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have intermittently taken place in the West Bank since the publication of US President Donald Trump’s plan.
Breaking with past US administrations, the plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.
The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.
Both the PA and Hamas have vehemently rejected the initiative, with PA President Abbas calling it “the slap of the century.”
Following Thursday’s three attacks and ahead of further potential violence during Friday’s prayers at Jerusalem’s volatile Temple Mount, the Israel Defense Forces said it was sending additional troops to the West Bank.
The military said the decision was made after an “ongoing situational assessment.” The IDF said it was deploying one extra battalion, which usually comprises a few hundred soldiers.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior IDF officers in the military’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Visitng the West Bank, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said: “We have no intention to let terror win. The directive in the field is very clear, clear down to the last soldier — to thwart and prevent every [terrorist] activity,” Kohavi told the officers.