Hamas calls attack a reaction to yesterday's raid in Jenin
Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in an attack the militant Hamas group said was a response to a raid by Israeli forces a day earlier in the flashpoint city of Jenin.
Four other people were wounded when the gunmen opened fire at a roadside restaurant and a gas station by the Eli settlement, emergency services said. One of the fatalities was a high school student, the Foreign Ministry said.
The Israeli military said it was boosting forces in the West Bank after the attack.
The Islamist Hamas group said the two gunmen were members of its armed wing. One was shot dead by a civilian at the scene and the second by Israeli security forces who had tracked him down after he fled the area, authorities said.
"When I got to the gas station, I saw the terrorist, I saw him going to a car in which a man was sitting. He shot a round at him," said Morel Nicker, 28, who is part of Eli's security team, from his hospital bed. "I shot him, he shot me. I didn't stop shooting until he stopped moving."
The West Bank has seen a sharp increase in violence over the past 15 months with stepped-up Israeli army raids amid a spate of Palestinian street attacks and Israeli settler aggression.
Tuesday's shooting took place a day after an hours-long gun battle between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships in Jenin, a major West Bank stronghold of armed Palestinian groups.
Six Palestinians were killed and more than 90 wounded during one of the most intense clashes in the West Bank in months. Seven Israeli personnel were also wounded.
"All options are open. We will continue to fight terrorism with all our might and we will defeat it," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement before convening security chiefs.
Members of his nationalist-religious government called for tough moves. "It's time for actions," said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for a full-scale military operation in the West Bank and urged Jewish settlers in the area to carry a weapon.
Attack 'heroic,' Hamas says
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has a network of fighters across the West Bank, described the attack as a "heroic" response to Monday's Israeli operation in Jenin and said it may be followed by more actions against Israelis "that will shatter their fragile state and turn the lives of their soldiers and settlers into a nightmare."
Residents and a local official in the nearby Palestinian village of Huwara said that after dark, Israeli settlers set fire to a car and torched fields in the area, in an apparent retribution for the attack.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides condemned the Eli attack and said he was "deeply concerned about the civilian deaths and injuries that have occurred in the West Bank these past 48 hours, including that of minors."
U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, aimed at establishing a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, collapsed in 2014 and show no sign of revival.
Israel's hard-right government is set on expanding settlements in the West Bank, which was captured in the 1967 Middle East War and where Palestinians exercise limited self-rule and the military governs more than half the territory.
Netanyahu's government includes members who rule out a Palestinian state, while Hamas rejects co-existence with Israel.
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