Report: Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Claim Responsibility for West Bank Shooting Attack

Two Israelis lightly wounded on Friday; Palestinians blame settlers for killing stone-throwing teen near Ramallah on Thursday.

The Imad Mughniyeh Group of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades on Saturday claimed responsibility for a shooting attack one day earlier in the West Bank, in which two Israelis were lightly wounded, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

Palestinian stone-throwers

Two Israelis were lightly hurt on Friday in a shooting attack at the Halamish Junction in the West Bank, near the settlement of Ofra. Police said gunmen opened fire at their car, which was traveling on Road 60.

The Israel Defense Forces has been conducting searches in the area for the assailants.

According to the Maan report, the group that is part of Fatah's military wing said in a statement that the attack was in response to the killing of a Palestinian teenager near Ramallah on Thursday, for which Palestinians have blamed Israeli settlers.

The group also said the attack also amounted to a rejection of the start if indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Civil Administration, the Israeli government body that deals with all non-military operations in the West Bank, relayed a message to senior Palestinian officials indicating that Israel takes shooting seriously.

The Civil Administration and the IDF have also asked the Palestinians to work to restore calm in the area.

Meanwhile, not far from the site of the shooting, Palestinian sources said settlers opened fire and killed a Palestinian teenager who was throwing rocks at Israeli cars near the West Bank city of Ramallah late Thursday.

The body of 16-year-old Aysar Zaben was found after midnight with gunshot wounds to the back outside the village of Mazra'a al Sharqiya, located northwest of Ramallah and between the settlements of Shiloh and Ofra.

An Israel Police spokesman said an investigation into the incident had been opened and it was not clear exactly what took place or who was responsible.

Two Israeli citizens had earlier alerted police after seeing three men, one armed with a rifle, get out of a car in the area where the shooting then took place. Police who came to the scene found rocks littering the side of the road, but no trace of the three men.

Violent rightists have adopted a "price tag" policy against Palestinians since Israel declared a temporary freeze in West Bank construction last December. Over the course of the last five months, groups of extremists have vandalized mosques and destroyed Palestinian property as a response to the IDF's having dismantled illegal outposts.

It was not yet clear whether this incident was related to the "price tag" operation.