Two Palestinians shot dead by Israelis in occupied West Bank

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Two Palestinians, one a teenager, were killed in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, hours after police apprehended two Palestinian men suspected of killing three Israelis last week.

It was the latest episode of violence during weeks of Palestinian attacks in Israel, and Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank that have left at least 18 Israelis and more than 30 Palestinians dead.

The Palestinian man died after he was shot by Israeli troops trying to cross Israel's separation barrier near a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said soldiers “spotted a suspect" attempting to sneak across the barrier near the West Bank city of Tulkarem and fired at him. It said the man was evacuated to receive medical treatment, but declined commenting on the man’s condition. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed his death.

The Israeli military also said an Israeli civilian shot a Palestinian armed with a knife who entered a West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 17-year-old Mutassim Atallah was killed in the Tekoa settlement. Searches were under way for a second Palestinian, the army said.

In a separate incident, police said a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a police officer outside Jerusalem's Old City, and that officers shot the assailant. Paramedics said the officer was hospitalized in moderate condition. The attacker’s condition was not immediately clear.

Sunday's incidents were the latest in string of violent episodes in recent weeks, including deadly attacks inside Israel, an Israeli military crackdown in the West Bank, and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a major holy site in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims.

The ongoing conflict plays out against the backdrop of Israel’s occupation, now in its 55th year, of the West Bank and other lands Palestinians seek for a state. Serious peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago, while Israel’s settlement expansion on occupied lands has continued unabated.

This week, Israel said it is set to advance plans for the construction of 4,000 settler homes in the West Bank. If approved, it would be the biggest advancement of settlement plans since the Biden administration took office.

Sunday began with Israeli police capturing two Palestinians who killed three people in a stabbing attack last week and fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt and keeping the country on edge.

The two attackers went on a stabbing rampage in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad on Thursday, Israel's independence day, killing three and wounding at least four others before bolting.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his Cabinet on Sunday that forces captured “terrorists awash with incitement who killed with axes and unimaginable cruelty.”

He said Israel was entering a “new stage in the war on terror," and said Israel was establishing a civilian national guard that would be deployed in emergency situations like the kinds of attacks the country has witnessed in recent weeks.

“The Israeli government’s main goal is to restore personal security to Israeli citizens,” he said.

A joint statement by police, the military and the Shin Bet internal security agency said the men, identified as 19- and 20-year-old Palestinians, were caught near a quarry not far from Elad following a search that began Thursday by special forces and commando units using helicopters and other means.

Images in Israeli media showed masked security forces confronting the men, who appeared to be beneath a green shrub in a rugged patch of land.

As forces scoured the area looking for the men, police called on the public to avoid the area, and urged Israelis to report suspicious vehicles or people to them.

Police said the attackers were from near the city of Jenin in the West Bank. The city and an adjacent refugee camp have reemerged as a militant bastion in the latest wave of violence — the worst Israel has seen in years. Several of the attackers in the recent violence have come from Jenin.

The Israeli military said it began preparations to demolish the homes of the two suspects in the village of Rummanah. Israel says the policy of demolishing homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis serves to deter would-be attackers, while rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment.

At least 18 Israelis have been killed in five attacks since March, including another stabbing rampage in southern Israel, two shootings in the Tel Aviv area, and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement.

Most of the Palestinians who have died in the violence had carried out attacks or were involved in confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank. But an unarmed woman and two apparent bystanders were also among those killed and rights groups say Israel often uses excessive force.

The violence has been fueled by tensions at a Jerusalem hilltop compound holy to both Muslims and Jews, where Palestinians have clashed recently with Israeli police.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and is built on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It lies at the emotional heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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