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Israeli forces sweep Hebron villages, 'block roads' after shooting

April 15, 2014 10:00 A.M. (Updated: April 17, 2014 5:22 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers early Tuesday blocked main roads and erected military checkpoints in two villages near Hebron, the day after an Israeli was killed by Palestinian gunmen near the West Bank city, locals said.

Locals told Ma'an that Israeli forces launched large-scale inspection raids in Idhna west of Hebron and in the nearby town of Tarqumiya, the area in which unidentified gunmen fired at an Israeli vehicle Monday, killing one and injuring two.

Locals told Ma'an that Idhna "looked like a closed military zone as nobody was allowed to move even in bypaths."

Additionally, Israeli forces erected checkpoints at the northern entrance of Hebron, inspecting Palestinian passersby and passengers, witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an that "there were elaborate scans yesterday (Monday) in order to find the shooter."

Another spokeswoman said that there were ongoing road closures in Tarqumiya due to the Passover holiday, but that the closures were unrelated to Monday's shooting.

In Idhna, the spokeswoman said Palestinians were allowed in and out of the village through military checkpoints.

The man who was killed in the Monday attack was a police officer from the town of Modiin in central Israel, an Israeli security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The policeman's wife and nine-year-old child were wounded and transferred to hospital. Three other children were in the vehicle, according to Israeli military radio.

Israelis in another car said they saw a man wearing a helmet and firing a Kalashnikov assault rifle on the side of the road, it said.

Dozens of army vehicles fanned out into nearby Palestinian villages, and a security barrier was erected at the main entrance to Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, according to an AFP photographer.

The flashpoint city of Hebron is home to nearly 200,000 Palestinians. There are some 80 settler homes in the center of town housing about 700 Jews who live under heavy Israeli army protection.

The Palestinian Hamas movement ruling Gaza, and fellow Islamist movement Islamic Jihad praised the attack, linking it to recent unrest in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City.

"Hamas praises the heroic Hebron operation and considers it a result of the (Israeli) occupation's oppression and crimes against our people and holy places, including the Al-Aqsa mosque," a statement said.

Islamic Jihad released a similar statement, hailing the attack and linking it to "settlers appropriating the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque."

But neither group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Monday's shooting took place as the seven-day Jewish Passover holiday began.

In September, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a suspected Palestinian gunman in the center of Hebron during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since January 1 in the West Bank, where around 350,000 Israelis live in settlements considered illegal by the international community.

Sixty Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the US-backed Israel-PLO peace talks were relaunched in July.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have meanwhile been trying to save collapsing talks, and were scheduled to meet again Wednesday with US envoy Martin Indyk.

AFP contributed to this report.
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