Israeli army arrests Palestinian suspects after manhunt and house demolition

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Security forces on Sunday apprehended three men suspected of involvement in a knife and ax attack that killed three Israelis in the central Israeli town of Elad last week.

The arrests came amid a continuing wave of violence in recent weeks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel.

Police identified the attackers as 19- and 20-year-old men from the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, which has re-emerged as a militant stronghold in the latest wave of violence – the worst Israel has seen in years. Several of the alleged attackers in the recent violence come from Jenin.

On Saturday, Israeli troops demolished the home of a Palestinian man who killed a Jewish seminary student in an ambush in the occupied West Bank five months ago, the army said.

The demolition took place around dawn in the village of Silat Al Khartiyeh, with troops swinging sledgehammers to break through walls and setting off explosives. Residents threw rocks and firebombs at soldiers who fired live ammunition, the army said.

Palestinian medics said three Palestinians were injured by live ammunition and others by tear gas inhalation.

Home demolitions continue

Home demolitions have been denounced by rights groups as collective punishment, and the military suspended the practice for several years, starting in 2005, after concluding it was not an effective deterrent . However, the army resumed demolitions several years ago and now carry them out regularly in response to attacks in which Palestinians kill Israelis.

In the deadly attack in Elad, four people were also injured as they were attacked with axes and knives in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town.

Officials familiar with the investigation said the attackers arrived in Elad in a vehicle driven by one of the victims and then killed him. At least one attacker used an axe, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details with the media.

A gag order has been placed on much of the investigation.

At least 18 Israelis have been killed in five attacks since March, including another stabbing attack in southern Israel, two shootings in the Tel Aviv area and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement.

Nearly 30 Palestinians were killed, most of whom had carried out attacks or participated in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank. But an unarmed woman and two apparent bystanders were also among those killed, and rights groups say Israel often uses excessive force.

Hamas, the ruling Islamic militant group in the Gaza Strip, has claimed responsibility for one of the attacks in which two assailants killed a security guard at the entrance to a West Bank settlement last week.

Some Israeli media personalities have suggested that Israel respond by targeting Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader in Gaza. On Saturday, the group’s military wing warned Israel of an “unprecedented response” if Sinwar was injured. Hamas and Israel have fought four wars and dozens of shorter cross-border skirmishes since 2008.

The continuing conflict is unfolding against the backdrop of Israel’s occupation, now in its 55th year, of the West Bank and other lands the Palestinians seek for a state. Serious peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago, while Israeli settlement expansion on occupied lands has continued unabated.

On Friday, Israel said it was preparing to advance plans to build 4,000 settler homes in the West Bank. If approved, it would be the biggest step forward in settlement plans since the Biden administration took office. The White House opposes settlement growth because it further erodes the possibility of an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this week, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an eviction order that would force at least 1,000 Palestinians out of an arid region in the southern West Bank where they say they have lived for decades. The military declared the area a firing range in the early 1980s.

Updated: May 08, 2022, 09:29

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