RAMALLAH/JERUSALEM: Israeli forces raided the city of Ramallah in the West Bank early on Thursday in what the military said was an operation to demolish the house of a Palestinian accused of a Jerusalem double-bombing last year.
The Palestinian health ministry said at least 35 people were wounded, including at least 20 by live bullets. Two people suffered serious abdominal wounds while a third was hit by a rubber bullet which penetrated his skull.
A journalist said a large military convoy arrived in downtown Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government in the occupied West Bank, leading hundreds of Palestinians to gather in the area.
Some Palestinian youths hurled stones at the Israeli soldiers, who fired live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at the crowd, the journalist said. Trash bins that were set on fire blocked roads as ambulance sirens wailed.
Masked men kill five Arabs near Nazareth
The military said soldiers were confronted by crowds throwing petrol bombs and rocks and responded with live fire. It said a Palestinian photojournalist was hit by a rubber bullet and the incident was being reviewed.
The Israeli military said its forces carried out the operation to demolish the house of Islam Faroukh, who was arrested last year on suspicion of carrying out a deadly bombing attack in Jerusalem.
The attack in November killed two people, including an Israeli-Canadian teenager, and wounded at least 14 others in what police said were coordinated explosions of improvised bombs planted at bus stops near the city exit and in a junction leading to a settlement.
Shot dead at car wash
Five Arab Israelis were shot dead at a car wash in the country’s north on Thursday, police said, amid the worst crime wave in years to hit the minority. The shooting brought the number of Arab Israelis killed this year to 96.
Roni Halon, a reporter with Nazareth-based Radio Nas, said the Yafia shooting took place as a police helicopter was above the town searching for those behind the Kafr Kanna attack.
Speaking from the scene, Halon said two masked men had arrived on motorcycles and used automatic rifles to kill the men in the car wash.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet would now help the police to tackle rampant criminal activity in the community.
Police said the shootings took place at Yafia, an Arab village just west of Nazareth, and a statement said forces were searching the area for suspects.
Speaking from the scene of the killings, police spokesman Eli Levy told public broadcaster Kan that “one person or more” opened fire at a group of men at a car wash.
A separate police official said the incident was most likely part of a gang war.
Maher Khaliliya, head of the Yafia local council, called the shooting a “massacre,” accusing police of responsibility due to lax enforcement.
He said he had no information about the background of the shooting, but said his town was “standing with the families of the victims as one”.
Arab Israelis, descendants of Palestinians who stayed on their land after Israel’s creation in 1948, comprise around 20 per cent of the country’s population.
On Thursday, he said he was “determined to stop this chain of murders” and would see that happen by not only reinforcing police but also “with the help of the Shin Bet”.
The internal security agency does not normally investigate criminal activity.
Earlier on Thursday, a 30-year-old man and a three-year-old girl were wounded in a separate shooting in Kafr Kanna, an Arab town north of Nazareth. They have long complained of discrimination and police inaction against violence and crime plaguing their communities.
On May 30, elected officials and representatives of the Arab minority protested in Jerusalem and called on the government to increase security.
Earlier this week, Netanyahu announced a decision to form a steering committee following a meeting with Arab lawmakers to discuss “solutions to the wave of murders in the Arab society”.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2023