Israeli forces shoot, kill 2 Palestinians; one was unarmed

An Israeli soldier guards an opening in Israel’s West Bank separation barrier that was reinforced with barbed wire to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel, in the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, on Sunday.

TEL AVIV (AP) — Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians, including an unarmed woman, in confrontations across Israel and the occupied West Bank on Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. It was the latest in a growing wave of violence that has broken out during the holy month of Ramadan.

The shootings came as Israeli troops combed the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the surrounding area, home to two of the Palestinians who staged deadly attacks against Israelis in recent weeks. Ramadan this year converges with major Jewish and Christian holidays. Protests during Ramadan last year boiled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.

“We will be at every place at any time as needed to cut off these terror attacks. Israel is going on the offensive,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his Cabinet.

Four attacks by Palestinians in recent weeks have killed 14 people in one of the deadliest bursts of violence against Israelis in years. In response, Israel has stepped up its military activity in the West Bank.

At a military checkpoint near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers opened fire at a woman who the army said failed to heed calls to stop and ignored warning shots fired into the air.

The army said that soldiers aimed at the woman’s lower body. But the Palestinian Health Ministry said the woman later died from her injuries in a hospital. Local news reports said she was a 47-year-old mother of six. The Israeli military confirmed the woman was found to be unarmed and said the incident was under investigation.

Palestinian assailants often carry out attacks at checkpoints in the West Bank. But Palestinians and human rights groups say the military often uses excessive force and in some cases has injured or killed people who were not involved in violence.

In the volatile southern West Bank city of Hebron, Israel’s border police said an officer shot another woman who stabbed and lightly wounded him near the Cave of the Patriarchs, a holy site revered by Jews and Muslims. Palestinian officials said the woman was killed.

More violence broke out later Sunday as Israeli forces patrolled Jenin, considered a stronghold of Palestinian militants, as soldiers investigated the home of an attacker who killed three Israelis in a mass shooting last week. The army said soldiers came under fire from a gunman on a motorcycle and shot him. The man’s condition wasn’t immediately known.

Israel has taken a series of steps to try to calm the situation, including granting thousands of Palestinians from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip permits to work inside Israel. At the same time, it has been stepping up security measures in hopes of preventing further violence.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed orders Sunday placing two Palestinian citizens of Israel in administrative detention, a controversial practice that allows authorities to hold them without charge. One suspect was placed under detention for four months on suspicion that he was planning an attack, while the second suspect was jailed for six months for what it said was past involvement in militant activity, the Defense Ministry said.

Israel’s Security Cabinet approved a plan to spend just over $110 million to extend some 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the porous West Bank separation barrier. Some of the attackers are believed to have slipped into Israel without permits.

Late Saturday, Israel announced that it was tightening restrictions on movement in and out of Jenin, though it continued to allow laborers to enter Israel for work. A raid on the home of one of the assailants on Saturday sparked a gunbattle that left at least one Palestinian militant dead.

Jenin governor Akram Rajoub denounced the ongoing Israeli activity in the area, called the measures “an expression of collective punishment” meant to disrupt the lives of Palestinians rather than thwart attacks.

In Sunday’s raid, the military said a “violent riot” broke out as forces were operating in the village of Yabad, home to one of the attackers. It said forces opened fire and shot one Palestinian who threw an explosive at them. It was unclear what his condition was.

Forces arrested at least eight suspects and found Israeli military ammunition and uniforms in one of the suspect’s homes as well as illegal arms, the military said.

Earlier, Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, the chief military spokesman, told Israeli Army Radio that some 100 Palestinians marched toward Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus late Saturday and set it ablaze before they were dispersed by Palestinian security forces. Images on social media showed parts of the tomb inside the shrine smashed and charred.

Joseph’s Tomb is a flashpoint prayer site. Some Jews believe the biblical Joseph is buried in the tomb, while Muslims say a sheikh is buried there. The army escorts Jewish worshippers to the site several times a year, in coordination with Palestinian security forces.

The incident drew condemnation from Israeli leaders. “The vandalism of Joseph’s Tomb is a grave event and a serious violation of freedom of worship in one of the holiest places for every Jew,” Gantz tweeted.