JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli settlers shot and seriously wounded two Palestinians in the north of the occupied West Bank early on Friday, Palestinian health officials said, in what authorities describe as the latest incident in a wave of settler violence.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two were being treated at a hospital in the village of Qusra, near the West Bank city of Nablus. It did not identify the men.
A group of armed settlers from a nearby outpost descended on the village and Palestinians went into the street to see what was happening late Thursday, said Ghassan Douglas, the Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlements in the Nablus region.
After midnight, one of the settlers opened fire at the residents, hitting one man in the stomach and another in the thigh. Douglas said the shooting was unprovoked.
The Israeli army said soldiers arrived to disperse the confrontation. It said it was aware Palestinians were evacuated to a hospital with gunshot wounds. Israeli police said they were investigating.
Nablus was the scene of an Israeli military raid that set off a fierce gunbattle on Wednesday, killing 10 Palestinians, including two men aged 72 and 61, and a 16-year-old boy, and wounded scores of others. Palestinian militant groups claimed six of the dead as members.
The bloodshed extended one of the deadliest periods in years in the West Bank, where dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the year. Palestinian attacks on Israelis in 2023 have killed 11 people.
Following Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Palestinians chanted and protested against the deadly raid in Nablus, as well as a crackdown on Palestinian prisoners by Israel’s right-wing government.
The northern West Bank in particular has seen a surge of settler attacks. Many villages in the area have gradually become sandwiched between settlements and unauthorized outposts that house particularly ideological settlers.
Last month, leading Israeli human rights group B'Tselem recorded a string of incidents near Nablus — from settlers attacking Palestinians with stones in Qusra to torching Palestinian cars in Aqraba. Earlier this month, a settler shot and killed a Palestinian in the farming town of Salfit.
“This kind of event we are now seeing here every few weeks," said Douglas, describing the settler violence as an attempt to push villagers off their land.
The United Nations recorded over 848 settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank last year, up from 538 in 2021. That includes property damage as well as physical assaults. The U.N.'s humanitarian office said it was the highest number it had recorded since 2006. So far this year, there have been 72 such attacks, it added.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek those lands for a hoped-for independent state. At least 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in dozens of settlements that spread across the West Bank and are protected by the Israeli military.
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