JORDAN VALLEY: Palestinians fired on an Israeli bus on a desert highway in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, Israeli military authorities and medics said, wounding five soldiers and the driver in an attack that suggested violence may be spiralling anew.
The attack was carried out on the day when Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz nominated Major General Herzi Halevi as the country’s next army chief.
The incident, in which authorities said two suspected gunmen were detained as they tried to escape, took place within driving distance of Jenin and Nablus, Palestinian cities that have seen months of intensive and often lethal Israeli security sweeps.
Witnesses said Palestinians in a car overtook the bus, spraying it with bullets and, when it came to a halt, tried to torch it. Israeli TV aired footage of a car ablaze after, it said, a firebomb went off inside.
Turkish warship docks in Israel as ties warm up
There was no immediate Palestinian claim of responsibility, but a spokesman for Hamas praised the attack as “proof that all attempts by the Occupation (Israel) to stop the escalating resistance operations in the West Bank have failed”.
Israel has stepped up raids in the West Bank in recent months after several deadly attacks by Palestinians in its cities between March and May.
Ram Ben-Barak, head of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said he hoped for a peace accord with the PA but described this prospect as unfeasible as of now. “The situation is very sensitive and explosive, on the one hand, while on the other we are seeing growing numbers of Palestinians who understand that the way forward is not one of violence,” Ben-Barak told Israel’s Army Radio.
Israel, he added, would respond “very forcefully ... while enabling those who don’t want to turn to terrorism to continue with their routine lives”.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz nominated Major General Herzi Halevi as the country’s next army chief, his office said on Sunday.
The nomination of Halevi, who serves as deputy to outgoing Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi, will be discussed by an advisory committee in the coming days before the government gives its approval, Gantz’s office said.
Halevi is due to take up his new position in February next year, the defence ministry said.
Turkish warship docks in Israel
Earlier, a Turkish warship docked in Israel for the first such visit in more than a decade as relations between the US allies improve following fierce feuding over the Palestinian cause.
The frigate Kemalreis docked in Haifa as part of Nato manoeuvres in the Mediterranean sea, a Turkish official said. An official of Haifa port said it was the first time a Turkish naval vessel had visited since at least 2010, when bilateral ties were shattered by Israel’s storming of a pro-Palestinian aid convoy that tried to breach its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ten Turks were killed by Israeli marines in that incident.
For its part, Israel has voiced objections at Nato-member Turkey’s hosting of members of Hamas, a Palestinian movement that is proscribed as a terrorist group in the West.
But the countries have moved to mend their relationship in recent months, with energy emerging as a key area for potential cooperation. They are expected to appoint new ambassadors soon.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s ruling Hamas authorities executed five Palestinians on Sunday, two of them on charges of espionage for Israel that dated back to 2015 and 2009, the interior ministry said.
The executions at dawn, by hanging or firing squad, were the first in the Palestinian territories since 2017. Past cases of capital punishment being carried out in Gaza have drawn criticism from human rights groups.
The ministry statement did not provide full names for any of the condemned men. It said three had been convicted of murder. The two convicted spies, aged 44 and 54, had given Israel information that led to the killing of Palestinians, it said.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the country’s intelligence services, declined comment.
“The execution was carried out after the conclusion of all legal procedures. The rulings had been final, with implementation mandatory, after all of the convicted were accorded full rights to defend themselves,” the statement said.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, its courts have sentenced around 180 Palestinians to death, and have executed 33 so far, the PCHR said.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2022