Israeli Tanks and Helicopters Scorch Hebron, Israeli Killed in Drive-By Shooting
Israeli tanks backed by helicopters killed five Palestinians and wounded 15 in a dawn incursion Friday into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank city of Hebron, while Palestinians gunned down one Israeli and wounded another near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, police and hospital sources told AFP.
Witnesses told the agency that the five were killed as a helicopter blasted a house with a missile. Around 20 tanks and armored vehicles were also taking part in the operation.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed that troops had moved into two Hebron neighborhoods, Al Sheikh and Abu Sneineh, and said the army would remain on the site "as long as necessary," according to the agency.
Police said five Palestinian men aged between 23 and 48 had been killed.
The dead were named as Hazem Amr, 27, Qassem Abu Afifa, 48, Raed Abu Daud, 23, Ziad Kafisha, 27, and Nidal Kafisha, 35.
The army spokesman said the incursion targeted areas from where he said Palestinians had fired on Israeli settlers living in Hebron on Wednesday and Thursday.
Around 400 Jewish settlers live in a heavily-guarded compound in the center of Hebron, surrounded by 120,000 Palestinians.
Hebron, which has sites holy to Jews and Muslims alike, has seen some of the worst violence since the beginning of the 12-month Palestinian uprising against 34 years of Israeli military occupation.
Later on Friday, Palestinians shot dead one Israeli and wounded another on a road near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, according to Israeli settler sources cited by AFP.
According to the agency, the two Israelis were standing beside their truck when Palestinians opened fire from a speeding car in the area, which is also close to a Jewish settlement.
AFP added that the Israelis were searching for the shooters.
The latest deaths bring to 862 the number of people killed since September 28. These include 664 Palestinians and 175 Israelis.
On Thursday, a Palestinian fighter opened fire near the central bus station in Afula in northern Israel, killing two Israelis and wounding 13, according to Israeli reports.
Among the injured, a woman was in a critical condition.
The attacker was shot dead by an Israeli policeman who was in the scene.
Sources told Israeli Radio that the attacker was disguised in an Israeli military uniform.
They also said that a letter in Arabic was found with his body.
In response, Israeli special forces stormed the village of Shweikeh near Tulkarem in the West Bank and detained two Jihad activists, according to satellite TV reports. Another activist was said to have been killed in the shootout that ensued, but the report was confirmed by neither side.
On Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen sparked panic among thousands of Jewish pilgrims who had flocked to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the center of Hebron for the holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles.
Israeli troops the next day shot dead one Palestinian and wounded three others in Hebron.
The Jewish settlers of Hebron, considered among the most extremist in the West Bank, have been demanding for months that the army occupy the hilltop districts of Al Sheikh and Abu Sneineh to prevent Palestinian gunfire, said AFP.
In 1994, Jewish fundamentalist Baruch Goldstein went on a rampage in Hebron, gunning down 29 Muslim worshippers.
All settlements on conquered Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, and successive Israeli administrations have flouted the 1993 Oslo peace accords by flooding the territories with tens of thousands of their nationals - Albawaba.com