A Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, which sparked army raids in the city of Ramallah during which a Palestinian was killed, the military said.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “legalize” thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.
The Israeli army said a Palestinian exited his car at a bus stop near the Ofra settlement in the West Bank before opening fire on soldiers and civilians.
Two soldiers were killed and at least two other people – including another soldier – were wounded, the army said, with the attacker fleeing.
“We are searching for the terrorist. We will find him,” the military said on Twitter.
Following the attack, the Israel army raided the nearby city of Ramallah, home to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Entrances and exits to the city were sealed for a number of hours and the army entered multiple neighbourhoods, before troops withdrew to the outskirts on Thursday evening.
Clashes broke out in various spots but subsided later in the evening.
The bus stop shooting came only hours after Israeli forces killed two militants allegedly responsible for West Bank attacks that claimed the lives of three Israelis, including a baby.
The armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel in Gaza since 2008, claimed the two Palestinians as its “fighters”.
The violence came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank, with a former head of Shin Bet’s intelligence and research division saying it appeared to be a “new front” opened by Gaza’s rulers Hamas.
While Abbas’s forces control Palestinian cities in the West Bank, some Hamas cells continue to operate.
Since Sunday’s attack, Israeli forces have made a series of incursions into central Ramallah, where Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is based. Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but highlighted Israeli raids as a potential cause of anger.
Israel’s premier Netanyahu responded to the violence by vowing to legalize “thousands” of settlement homes built without even Israeli permits. All settlements are considered illegal under international law and are seen as a major obstacle to peace, but Israel draws a distinction between those it sanctions and those constructed without permission.
Israel seized control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem in a 1967 war. Around 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements there considered illegal by the international community.