Israel: Palestinian shot, killed 2 Israelis in the West Bank
JERUSALEM: A Palestinian man shot and killed two Israelis and wounded a teenager as they were driving in the West Bank on Friday, Israeli officials said, the latest in a nearly two-month rash of violence and almost daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Eli Bin from Israel's emergency services said the Friday afternoon attack killed a man in his 40s and a youth of about 18 years of age. Israeli media reported that the attack happened near the city of Hebron and that the two were father and son.
At least one other person, a teenager, was wounded in the attack, Bin said. Israeli media reported that at least two Israelis were wounded and taken to hospital.
The military said the "terrorist fled the scene" after the attack and that troops were searching the area.
Israel's Channel 10 TV said a Palestinian man opened fire from the side of the road at a passing car, killing a man and a woman and wounding a 15-year-old boy.
Hebron, the largest West Bank city, has been a particular flashpoint in the current round of violence. Several hundred Jewish settlers live in fortified enclaves in the city, amid tens of thousands of Palestinians.
The military says that over the past month, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks in Hebron alone, including more than 20 stabbings, multiple assaults with cars and other vehicles and several shooting attacks.
In all, since mid-September, 14 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings. Seventy-nine Palestinians have been killed, including 50 who Israel says were involved in attacks.
Friday's attack was reminiscent of a similar incident in October when Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli couple in front of their four children, including a 4-months-old infant, as the family was driving in the West Bank. Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency later arrested five Palestinians it said were part of a Hamas cell that carried out the attack.
In other developments Friday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his return to the difficult world of Mideast diplomacy, saying he was launching a new initiative to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace as a private citizen.
Blair's announcement came six months after he stepped down as the Mideast envoy for the Quartet — a group that represents the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Blair said the experience and contacts made during his eight years in that post would help him in his new effort.
"What I have found actually since leaving the Quartet role is that it's been easier to have conversations in complete frankness with people. And since I have the relationships, people are maybe prepared in some way to be more forthcoming," he said.
With the Quartet, Blair's role was focused primarily on developing the Palestinian economy. He said his new initiative would focus on broader political issues as well. "So, I feel a little more liberated to do what I think is necessary," he said.
The initiative will include promoting a 2002 Arab initiative that offered a comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full pullout from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war, working to improve the Palestinian economy and trying to end a split that has left the Palestinians torn between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Blair's return comes at a difficult time. The Syrian civil war and rise of the Islamic State militant group have largely pushed the Palestinian issue off the international agenda. And a year and half after peace efforts broke down, Israel and the Palestinians have been in the midst of the latest wave of violence.
Israel says the fighting has been fueled by Palestinian incitement while Palestinians say it's the result of despair over the repeated failure of peace talks and a lack of hope of gaining independence.
Also Friday, an 18-year-old Palestinian man died of Israeli gunshot wounds sustained the previous day in the West Bank village of Sair, Palestinian medical officials said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the man was shot at a demonstration that followed the funeral of a villager killed in an undercover Israeli raid overnight on a West Bank hospital. Israel said it shot the man after he attacked troops who were arresting a suspect wanted in the stabbing of an Israeli.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Meanwhile, Israel's justice ministry said an indictment was filed Friday against an Israeli teenager who attacked a human rights activist last month. Footage of the attack showed a masked youth attack Rabbi Arik Ascherman and threaten him with a knife as he and other Israeli peace activists helped Palestinians harvest their olive trees in the West Bank.