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Israelis injured in West Bank shooting as talks seek 'calm'

By AFP - Mar 19,2023 - Last updated at Mar 19,2023

Israeli soldiers check the ID card of a Palestinian youth as they patrol the town of Huwara, in the occupied West Bank, following a reported shooting attack on an Israeli settler's car, on Sunday (AFP photo)

HUWARA, Palestinian Territories — A shooting attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday injured two Israelis, the army and rescuers said, as Israeli and Palestine officials held talks in Egypt over a surge in violence.

The attack in Huwara came three weeks after the fatal shooting of two Israeli settlers, also in Huwara.

The attack came during Israeli-Palestinian talks in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh after a surge in deadly violence in the occupied West Bank.

Egypt's foreign ministry said the talks aim "to restore calm".

Tomer Fein, a rescuer from the Magen David Adom emergency response service, said: "We found two injured people, one of them in serious condition, with wounds in the upper body".

The second was "in a state of shock", he said.

They were treated at the scene and then evacuated by ambulance, Fein said in a video released by the service.

Neither Hamas nor the Islamic Jihad group claimed the attack, but they released similarly-worded statements describing it as a "normal response to the crimes of the occupation".

The meeting, which follows similar talks last month in Jordan where both sides pledged to prevent more violence, comes amid concerns of a feared escalation during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starting in the coming week.

Hussein Al Sheikh, Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) secretary general, said Saturday on Twitter that the Palestinian delegation would participate "to demand an end to the continuous Israeli aggression against us".

But militant Palestinian factions rejected the effort.

On February 26 two Israeli settlers were shot dead in Huwara in what the government called a "Palestinian terror attack".

The attack, during the Jordan talks to address rising violence, sparked more unrest, when dozens of Israeli settlers set homes and cars ablaze in revenge, and a Palestinian was killed.

Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, said after the Israelis' deaths that Huwara should be "wiped out".

He later backtracked saying he "did not mean harm to innocents", after his comments provoked international condemnation.

Days later, on March 7, during a raid on Jenin, to the north of Huwara, the Israeli forces said it killed Abdel Fatah Hussein Khroushah, 49, who it acccused of killing the two settlers and called a "terrorist operative".

He was among six men killed, the Palestinian health ministry said, in clashes that the army said included soldiers launching shoulder-fired rockets amid ferocious gunfire.

The West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 June  War, is home to hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers who live in state-approved settlements considered illegal under international law.

Violence intensified last year but has worsened in the West Bank during the tenure of Netanyahu's government which took office in December, a coalition with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right allies.

The government of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has vowed to continue the expansion of West Bank settlements.

About 230,000 Israelis live in occupied East Jerusalem, along with at least 360,000 Palestinians who want to make the sector the capital of their future state.

But Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been stalled since 2014.

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