Palestinian gunman kills Israeli as violence roils West Bank

People inspecting a damaged building.
People inspect a damaged building in the town of Hawara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, after scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage.
(Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press)

A Palestinian gunman fatally shot an Israeli motorist in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the latest bloodshed in fighting that showed no signs of slowing.

The slaying occurred a day after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis in the northern West Bank, triggering a rampage in which Israeli settlers torched dozens of cars and homes in a Palestinian town. It was the worst such violence in decades.

The Israeli army said Monday’s attackers opened fire at an Israeli car near the Palestinian city of Jericho, hitting the motorist.


The assailants, traveling in one vehicle, drove farther and fired again, the army said. The attackers then burned their vehicle and fled, setting off a manhunt.

The 27-year-old Israeli motorist was taken to Hadassah Medical Center, where he died of his injuries, according to a statement by hospital spokeswoman Hadar Elboim. The man was not immediately identified.

Earlier, Israel sent hundreds more troops to the northern West Bank to restore calm after Sunday’s violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, came under criticism for its failure to halt a surge in violence and for sending what some saw as mixed messages. As Netanyahu appealed for calm, a member of his ruling coalition praised the rampage as deterrence against Palestinian attacks.

The Israeli army also came under criticism for its failure to move quickly to stop the rioting, the worst such violence in decades.

“The government needs to decide what it is,” columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. “Is it resolved to enforce law and order on Arabs and Jews alike? Or is it a fig leaf for the hilltop youth, who do as they please in the territories? That same question also applies to the army, which has thus far failed to deal effectively with either Palestinian terrorism or Jewish terrorism.”


The events also underscored the limitations of the traditional U.S. approach to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Washington has been trying to prevent escalation while staying away from the politically costly task of pushing for a resolution of the core disputes.

As the violence raged in the West Bank, such an attempt at conflict management was taking place Sunday in Jordan, with the U.S. bringing together Israeli and Palestinian officials to work out a plan for de-escalation.

Sunday’s events began when a Palestinian gunman shot and killed brothers Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha, in an ambush in the Palestinian town of Hawara, in the northern West Bank. The gunman fled and remained on the loose late Monday. The brothers were buried in Jerusalem.

Following the shooting, groups of settlers rampaged along the main thoroughfare in Hawara, which is used by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. In one video, a crowd of settlers stood in prayer as they stared at a building in flames.

The U.S. is so far empty-handed in dealing with Israel’s radical government and dysfunctional Palestinian leadership.

Feb. 13, 2023

Late Sunday, a 37-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli fire, two Palestinians were shot and wounded, and another was beaten with an iron bar, Palestinian health officials said. Some 95 Palestinians were being treated for tear gas inhalation, according to medics.

On Monday morning, the Hawara thoroughfare was lined with rows of burned-out cars and smoke-blackened buildings. Normally bustling shops remained shuttered. Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched.


Shop owner Sultan Farouk Abu Sris said he briefly went outside and saw scores of settlers setting containers and a home on fire.

“They didn’t leave anything. They even threw tear gas bombs,” he said. “It’s destruction. They came bearing hatred.”

At the scene of the shooting, Defense Minister Yoav Galant told reporters that Israel “cannot allow a situation in which citizens take the law into their hands,” but stopped short of outright condemning the violence.

Israeli troops entered the West Bank city of Nablus in a rare daytime arrest operation, triggering fighting that killed at least 10 Palestinians.

Feb. 22, 2023

Shahar Glick, a reporter for Israel’s army radio station who was in Hawara, said security forces blocked the roads into town but were caught off guard when 200 to 300 settlers entered on foot.

He said only a handful of police and soldiers were there, even after activists had publicized the march on social media. The West Bank is home to a number of hard-line settlements — several in the immediate vicinity of Hawara — whose residents frequently vandalize Palestinian land and property.

Some police, he said, even wished the protesters well, telling them to “take care of themselves.”


“For the journalists, it was clear to us from the outset, as we walked behind them, that this incident was developing,” Glick said. “It took a long time for the security forces to understand.”

Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army deployed hundreds of additional troops to the area with the aim of de-escalation. Two battalions were sent late Sunday and a third Monday, with several hundred soldiers each. The situation remained quiet late Monday.

Israeli police spokesman Dean Elsdunne said eight Israelis were detained in connection with Sunday’s rioting and that six had been released.

The number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank now exceeds 500,000, with advocates predicting faster growth under Israel’s new government.

Feb. 2, 2023

Speaking at a settlement outpost reoccupied by Jewish settlers after Sunday’s shooting, the firebrand Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Jewish Power party, called for a “real war on terrorism” and legalizing the outpost, which troops were once again clearing.

“We must crush our enemies,” he said in response to the Palestinian attack. As for the settler violence, he added: “I understand the hard feelings, but this isn’t the way — we can’t take the law into our hands.”

Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog urged settlers not to engage in vigilante actions. Merav Michaeli of the opposition Labor Party condemned the rampage as “a pogrom by armed militias” of West Bank settlers.


In the ruling coalition, some fanned the flames.

The hilltop site, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, has been the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.

Jan. 3, 2023

Tzvika Foghel, a lawmaker from Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party, said the rampage would help deter Palestinian attacks. “I see the result in a very good light,” he told Army Radio when asked about what the interviewer referred to as a pogrom.

Sunday’s violence has drawn condemnation from the international community. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the shooting attack and the rampage “underscore the imperative to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli government responsible for what he called “the terrorist acts carried out by settlers under the protection of the occupation forces tonight.”

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War — for a future state. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The international community overwhelmingly considers Israel’s settlements as illegal and obstacles to peace.

So far this year, 62 Palestinians, about half of them affiliated with armed groups, have been killed by Israeli troops and civilians. In the same period, 14 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks.

Last year was the deadliest for the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2004, according to figures from the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in those areas, Some 30 people on the Israeli side were killed in Palestinian attacks.