By Ali Sawafta
JENIN, West Bank – Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians, one a teacher and one a gunman, in the occupied West Bank on Thursday during a raid in the flashpoint city of Jenin, Palestinian medics and a witness said.
Violence in the West Bank has surged over the past year, following stepped-up raids by Israel in response to a spate of Palestinian street attacks in its cities. At least 17 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since Jan. 1.
The Israeli military said its forces had come under heavy fire by Palestinian gunmen during a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin on Thursday and had returned fire.
Asked about the teacher’s death, a military spokesperson said the incident was under review.
“It should be noted that the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) does not intentionally fire toward civilians,” the spokesperson said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the death of the teacher and of the gunman, who was later identified by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group as one of its members.
Farid Bouaqneh, 31, son of the 57-year-old teacher Jawad Bouaqneh, said the gunman was shot outside the family house and that he and his father went out to help the militant.
“My father went out to help the man, to provide first aid,” Bouaqneh told Reuters. “We dragged him (the gunman) inside and my father was shot,” Bouaqneh said, pointing at his upper body while standing at a doorway with a blood-stained floor.
One Israeli soldier was wounded, the military said.
U.S.-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem side by side with Israel, broke down in 2014.
Prospects of their revival have dimmed further since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power in December at the head of a religious-nationalist government, many of whose members are opposed to Palestinian statehood. His cabinet has set the expansion of West Bank settlements as a priority.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was expected to meet on Thursday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and stress Washington’s commitment to the two-state solution, spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.