Israeli Soldier Killed in Apparent Sniper Shooting Near Hebron

IDF imposes closure on West Bank city in wake of attack; Minister Bennett demands government rethink commitment to prisoner release; shooting occurs day after body of another IDF soldier found near Qalqilya, after murdered by Palestinian coworker from Bat Yam restaurant.

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An Israeli soldier was killed on Sunday in a shooting attack near the West Bank city of Hebron.

The victim was named as Staff Sergeant Gal (Gabriel) Kobi, 20, of Tirat Hacarmel. He was evacuated to the Hadassah Hospital Ein Karem for treatment, and died of his wounds.

Initial details revealed that the Kobi had been standing at the Pharmacy District checkpoint near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Clashes erupted in the area and a bullet fired from a distance, apparently by a sniper, struck Kobi in his upper body.

An IDF officer said there were as yet no leads to the perpetrator, nor had there been any intelligence warnings of a planned attack.

Large IDF forces were combing the area for further evidence. Worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs were being evacuated and the city was put under closure.

The area in which the incident occurred is generally closed off to Jewish traffic, but was specially opened this week due to the Sukkot holiday. Entry to the Tomb was only being granted to Jews during this period of the holiday.

Tensions had already broken out in the city in the early afternoon, Palestinian witnesses said. Demonstrators threw rocks, damaging some local cars. Hebron’s government hospital said one Palestinian was hit in the head by a rubber bullet, but the injury was not life-threatening. Several other Palestinians were lightly injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

The witnesses said that in the wake of the shooting, IDF forces took two houses, one at the southern entrance to Hebron and one at the entrance of Al Fuar refugee camp, and were conducting extensive searches throughout the area.

"We feel as if the entire city is under curfew," said one resident. No organization has taken responsibility for the shooting yet.

The shooting occurred a day after 20-year-old IDF soldier Tomer Hazan was founded murdered in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah over the weekend. Hazan, a resident of Bat Yam in central Israel, was reported missing after failing to contact his family since Friday morning.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the shooting, nor has the Palestinian Authority released any statement. But Palestinian media outlets made much of the fact that this was the second Israeli soldier to be killed in the last three days: On Friday, Tomer Hazan was murdered near Qalqilyah.

The IDF, Shin Bet and the police set up a joint taskforce in an attempt to find Hazan. An investigation later revealed that Nadal Amar, a resident of Qalqilyah who worked at a Bat Yam restaurant with Hazan, allegedly lured the victim to the West Bank and murdered him.

Amar, who was arrested by security forces on Saturday, admitted that he led Hazan to a well north of the Palestinian town Sanriya, near Qalqilyah, where he killed him and hid his body. A few hours ago, Amar led the Israeli security forces to the seven meter deep well, where the body was hidden.

In his Shin Bet interrogation, Amar admitted he lured Hazan to the West Bank. It is still unclear why Hazan agreed.

The United States condemned the killing of the two Israeli soldiers, in a statement issued in New York, where diplomats are gathering for the UN General Assembly.

"Such violence and terror are unacceptable, and undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiations," spokesperson Jen Psaki said in an emailed statement.

In response to the murders, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett demanded that the cabinet reconsider its commitment to release dozens of convicted terrorists over the course of the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

"The negotiations have turned Sukkot into a bloody holiday," Bennett said. "There is no doubt that the developments that have occurred since the talks resumed require the government to recalculate its path. The response to terrorism must be a war on killers, not a dialogue with those who encourage killers."

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon demanded the government to freeze the talks until Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the murders.

"Abbas' silence constitutes tailwind to acts of terror," he said.

Soldiers preventing Palestinians from leaving Hebron on September 22, 2013 following the death of an Israeli soldier after he was shot by a suspected Palestinian gunman.Credit: AFP
A Magen David Adom ambulance.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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