Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting
JERUSALEM (AP) — The prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday praised a shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded his wife and son as they drove through the West Bank the previous evening en route to a Seder, the traditional Passover meal that starts the weeklong Jewish holiday.
Speaking in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh said the attack outside the city of Hebron “brought back life to the path of resistance” against Israel and warned of more attacks in the territory. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest incident to threaten peace talks with the Palestinians.
Hamas and Israel are bitter enemies. They have engaged in several rounds of fighting since the militant Islamic group seized power in Gaza in 2007 after ousting forces loyal to the Palestinian Fatah party, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, in fierce street battles. The two Palestinian groups have not reconciled despite several attempts and Hamas now rules Gaza while Abbas governs part of the West Bank.
“We tell the enemy and anyone who thinks he is able to tame the West Bank ... the West Bank will be the future point of our struggle with the enemy,” Haniyeh said.
Israeli media said the wounded woman was told in hospital that her 40-year-old husband, a police officer, was killed. It said their wounded son is nine years old.
Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, visited the wounded at a Jerusalem hospital and called the incident “a tragedy.”
The attack almost certainly complicates U.S. attempts to salvage the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war from Jordan and Egypt.
Two decades of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have failed to settle the conflict, and the latest U.S. mediation attempt, launched last year by Secretary of State John Kerry, also seems on the verge of collapse.
Kerry has said he wants to see a deal, or at least the outlines of one, by the end of April. But the two sides remain locked in a dispute over the terms of extending talks, without having made any apparent progress on issues such as borders and security arrangements.
The Palestinians have been demanding Israel release a promised batch of prisoners, many of whom were involved in similar attacks as the one on Passover. A nationalistic party in Netanyahu’s coalition has threatened to quit it if prisoners are freed.
Netanyahu condemned the attack and in a statement said he “holds the Palestinian Authority responsible” for “the despicable murder.”
“The Palestinian Authority continues to constantly broadcast - in its official media - programs that incite against the existence of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Last night this incitement was translated into the murder of a father who was traveling with his family to celebrate the first night of Passover,” he said.
He pointed out that the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, had not yet condemned the attack.
Attacks like Monday’s were common in the West Bank during Israeli-Palestinian fighting last decade, but the level of violence dropped significantly in recent years.
Still, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said Palestinians have killed 17 Israeli civilians in the West Bank since 2009, not counting Monday’s fatality. Spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said 76 Palestinian noncombatants were killed during that period in the same territory.
Michaeli said her group is critical of the Palestinian deaths and has called for investigations by the military, but said they were not comparable to the Israeli ones as Palestinian militants purposely targeted civilians while Palestinian civilians died during violent altercations and arrest raids against militants.
“Contrary to certain Palestinian claims, attacks against civilians within Israel’s borders are no different from attacks against settlers living in the West Bank. In both cases, the targets are civilians who must not be attacked and who must be protected from attacks,” she said.
“The argument that there is justification for killing settlers as part of the struggle against Israeli occupation is both legally and morally groundless,” Michaeli said, adding that all civilians on all sides must be shielded.
In 2002, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a Passover Seder at a hotel, killing 30 people and wounding over 100.
Associated Press Writer Ibrahim Barzak contributed to this report from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.