Two Palestinians were shot dead and one was critically injured by Israeli fire after the three of them shot at an Israeli military base near the West Bank, prompting Israeli police to bolster presence across the country and in areas bordering the West Bank, fearing further attacks.
The three Palestinians, who were carrying homemade rifles, opened fire at Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were stationed at the Salem base near the West Bank city of Jenin, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said.
Border Police officers, who were also stationed at the base, shot at the Palestinians in response, killing two of them and injuring the third. He was taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula in very serious condition and treated in the hospital's trauma center in the emergency medical department.
There were no casualties on the Israeli side.
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Defense officials said the three Palestinians had been planning to commit an attack inside Israel, with one source saying it appeared they intended to travel to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, chief of the military's Central Command, said "a major terror attack" had been prevented.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered increased presence to prevent any further attacks or attempts by Palestinians to cross into Israel.
An initial investigation found that the Palestinians crossed into Israeli territory after breaching the border fence and arrived at the nearby West Bank Border Police base, next to the military court at Salem. Border Police forces were outside the base, having just returned from operational activity. Three of the armed Palestinians opened fire at them using improvised Carl Gustav rifles, and the Border Police returned fire, as did IDF soldiers who were standing guard at the site.
On Sunday, three Israeli yeshiva students were shot in a terror attack at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank. One of the teenage victims, Yehuda Guetta, was critically wounded in the shooting, and died on Wednesday night. One of his friends was wounded lightly, another seriously. Police and Border Police announced on Wednesday that the suspected shooter was apprehended and had been taken in for questioning by the Shin Bet security service.
The shooter was identified as Muntassir Shalabi, a 44-year-old resident of the village of Turmus Ayya and a U.S. citizen. The Border Police said that he is not affiliated with any particular terror group. He was captured in a joint operation on by the Shin Bet security service, Israeli military and Israel Police, according to Israel Defense Forces.
The attack also comes at a time of heightened tensions in East Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinian residents of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah have faced potential eviction for years, amid intensified efforts from right-wing settler groups that assert the land was owned by Jews before 1948, when Israel was founded. The threat of eviction has led to frequent protests.
On Thursday night, police arrested 15 Palestinians in clashes between Palestinians and Jews in Sheikh Jarrah on suspicion of rioting, unruliness, throwing stones and fireworks and attacking officers and civilians. The East Jerusalem neighborhood has become a flashpoint after the far-right, Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir relocated his office there in what he called a protest against police's failure to protect Jewish residents.