Israeli soldier killed in Hebron

12:00 Sep 22 2013 Hebron, near Ibrahimi Mosque

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli soldier was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper on Sunday in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military announced.

Israel's military said the shooting occurred at a flashpoint holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarch.

In a statement, the army said a soldier was critically injured after direct fire was opened toward soldiers in Hebron. One soldiers, who was not immediately named, was evacuated to a hospital where he later died.

The military said the soldier was participating in "routine activities" defending Jews in Hebron including approximately 11,000 people who were visiting the area for a Jewish holiday.

"The IDF is currently searching the area after the perpetrators, and movement in the immediate Hebron vicinity is temporarily restricted in order to prevent the perpetrators from fleeing the city," the army said.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner was quoted in the statement as saying that "This lethal attack illustrates the complex security challenges the IDF faces on a daily basis in Judea & Samaria.

He added: "The IDF will employ the necessary means, operational and intelligence, to apprehend those responsible for this deathly attack. The IDF will continue to act to prevent terror and safeguard the civilians of the State of Israel and its soldiers."

A Ma'an correspondent and medics said Israeli forces placed Hebron under a complete lockdown, causing traffic delays and even preventing a pregnant woman from reaching a hospital.

Israeli soldiers raided houses and forced males out of some homes at gunpoint, assembling them at a junction on Tariq Bin Ziyad street, a Ma'an reporter said.

Near the junction, Israeli soldiers were also holding up an ambulance that was taking a woman in labor to hospital, a medic said. The medic said that the woman was about to give birth but the soldiers refused to let the ambulance through the street.

Before the shooting, clashes broke out in Hebron after Israeli forces closed shops in the Bab al-Zawiyeh area. They said Jews planned to visit a religious site during a Jewish holiday.

Israeli forces threatened shop owners with guns and Palestinians responded by throwing rocks. Soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades, injuring two people.

One school administration shut down classes to protect students in the area.


The contested Hebron house, April 2012. Photo by Emil Salman

Netanyahu orders that settlers be allowed back into contested Hebron house

In wake of shooting that killed Israeli soldier near Hebron, prime minister pledges to 'strengthen settlement' in West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Civil Administration on Sunday night to take the necessary action to allow Jewish settlers back into a contested house in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In April 2012, a group of settlers moved into the house, claiming that they had purchased the property, which is located not far from the Cave of the Patriarchs. After reviewing the deed, the Civil Administration invalidated the purchase, citing faults in the transaction. Under the martial law in the territories, any real estate deal must first be approved by an Israeli army commander.

Consequently, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered that the house be evacuated.

Since then, settlers in Hebron have been waging a legal battle to gain recognition for the transaction. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has pledged in the past that if the deal is deemed legal, the settlers would receive authorization to move in from the military as well.

On Sunday night, Netanyahu ordered that the house be inhabited without delay.

"Anyone who tries to uproot us from the city of our patriarchs will achieve the opposite," he said. "We will continue to fight terrorism … with one hand, while strengthening the settlement with the other."

Netanyahu's announcement came after an Israel Defense Forces soldier was shot dead on Sunday in Hebron. He was the second Israeli soldier killed since Friday by suspected Palestinian gunmen as tensions rise in the West Bank despite a resumption of stalled U.S.-brokered peace talks in July.

Nevertheless, the purchase must still go through the appropriate bureaucratic channels. In June, an appeals committee ordered that the settlers' request to register the purchase be reviewed. Contrary to reports, it did not recognize the legality of the transaction, but leveled criticism at the manner in which the deal was denied.

Once this process is completed, the prime minister and defense minister can sign off on the deal and allow the settlers back into the property.

Netanyahu's statement did not mention a timeline for this process.

The settlers said on Sunday that they will only return to the home once they receive an official authorization.

By Chaim Levinson for Haaretz
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