Israel kills Hamas member suspected of murdering rabbi
Nablus (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)
Israeli forces on Tuesday shot dead a Hamas member suspected of killing a rabbi as two deadly attacks against Israeli settlers in a month increased tensions in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian suspect in the murder of the rabbi on January 9 was shot dead in a pre-dawn raid hours after another Israeli was killed in a stabbing in the West Bank.
Several hundred mourners attended the funeral on Tuesday for Itamar Ben Gal, the 29-year-old man killed a day earlier who was also a rabbi.
There was no indication of a direct link between the two attacks, with violence common in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli settlers or security forces.
Islamist movement Hamas said the suspect killed overnight was a member of its armed wing. The 19-year-old believed to have committed Monday's stabbing remained at large.
"The security forces will catch whoever tries to attack Israeli citizens and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
"So it will be with the murderers of Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal."
Both attacks have led to Israeli calls for more settlement building in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation for more than 50 years.
Earlier this week in response to the rabbi's murder on January 9, Israel's government in a rare move decided to "legalise" the rogue West Bank outpost where he lived, Havat Gilad, essentially creating a new settlement.
There were further calls for more settlement construction at Tuesday's funeral for Ben Gal held at the Har Bracha settlement where he lived, Israeli media reported.
- Hamas welcomes attack -
The overnight raid occurred in the village of Yamoun near Jenin, where the 22-year-old suspect, Ahmad Jarrar, was said to be hiding.
It came after a weeks-long manhunt for Jarrar, the son of a Hamas figure killed by Israeli forces during the second intifada of the early 2000s.
Beginning late Monday and into early Tuesday, dozens of Israeli army jeeps entered Yamoun and besieged a part of the town. Heavy clashes broke out with live fire, according to a Palestinian security source.
Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency said that "during the attempted arrest, the terrorist came out of a building where he was hiding armed.
"Security forces fired in his direction. An M-16 assault rifle and a bag containing explosives were found near his body," the agency said in a statement.
Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed Jarrar as a member and welcomed the attack on January 9 that saw Raziel Shevach, 35, shot dead.
"Our heroes in the occupied West Bank wrote a heroic epic that made the Zionists lose sleep and put their security establishment on alert," the al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement.
It said a "Qassam bullet" was responsible for the murder, though it was unclear if the Hamas leadership was claiming direct responsibility for the attack or whether the cell acted on its own.
Israeli forces had been hunting for the assailants since the murder, with roadblocks and checkpoints set up following the attack.
Two Palestinians were killed during earlier raids which Israeli security services said were launched to find Shevach's killers.
Monday's stabbing occurred near the major Israeli settlement of Ariel. A video published online showed Ben Gal waiting for a bus as the assailant crosses the road and stabs him in the chest.
The assailant was identified in Israeli media as the son of an Arab Israeli woman and a Palestinian father from the West Bank city of Nablus.
Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel faced sharp criticism from the administration of former US president Barack Obama over settlement construction, but that has not been the case with Trump's White House.
Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6 was also hailed by Israelis, while deeply angering the Palestinians who see the city as their capital as well.
Twenty-one Palestinians have been killed since Trump's announcement, most in clashes with Israeli forces. Two Israelis have been killed in that timeframe.
© 2018 AFP