4 Palestinians killed in flare-up as Israel counts votes
Ramallah: Israeli forces killed at least four Palestinians in separate incidents on Thursday, including one who had stabbed a police officer in east Jerusalem and three others in Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank.
The violence flared as Israel tallied the final votes in national elections held this week, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected to lead a comfortable majority backed by far-right allies.
Israeli troops operating in the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant stronghold, killed at least two Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said one of those killed was a local commander. The Israeli military did not immediately provide details on the operation.
Earlier on Thursday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli police said it happened during a raid in the territory and alleged the man threw a firebomb at the forces.
In a separate incident on Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City, police said, and officers opened fire on the attacker, killing him. The officer was lightly wounded.
The violence came as a political shift is underway in Israel after national elections, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to return to power in a coalition government made up of far-right allies, including the extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who in response to the incidents said Israel would soon take a tougher approach to attackers.
“The time has come to restore security to the streets,” he tweeted. “The time has come for a terrorist who goes out to carry out an attack to be taken out!”
The violence was the latest in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that has killed more than 130 Palestinians this year, making 2022 the deadliest since the UN started tracking fatalities in 2005.
The violence intensified in the spring, after a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people, prompting Israel to launch a months-long operation in the West Bank it says is meant to dismantle militant networks.
The raids have been met in recent weeks by a rise in attacks against Israelis, killing at least three.
Israel says most of those killed have been militants. But youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in the fighting have also been killed.
Also on Thursday, Israel said it was removing checkpoints in and out of the city of Nablus. Israel had imposed the restrictions weeks ago, clamping down on the city in response to a new militant group known as the Lions’ Den.
The military has conducted repeated operations in the city in recent weeks, killing or arresting the group’s top commanders.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mid-east war, and has since maintained a military occupation over the territory and settled more than 500,000 people there.
The Palestinians want the territory, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, for their hoped-for independent state.