Israeli fighter jets and attack helicopters have struck Syrian military targets, hours after thwarting an infiltration attempt from Syria by suspected militants who were trying to plant explosives, t…
A Palestinian rock-thrower killed an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and police wounded a Palestinian who tried to stab security staff at a checkpoint, Israeli authorities have said.
The separate events marred a relative lull in West Bank violence during the coronavirus outbreak and came a day before planned US-Israel talks on plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians and Israelis have restricted their movements and, to a degree, cooperated on measures in response to the crisis.
On Thursday, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to swear in a new coalition government whose agenda includes a possible declaration of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – a de facto annexation.
The Israeli military said 21-year-old Amit Ben-Yigal died after being struck in the head by a rock thrown from a rooftop in Yabad village, near Jenin, as his special forces unit withdrew after detaining four wanted Palestinians.
Palestinian security sources said that clashes had erupted overnight when Israeli forces raided the village.
The Israeli military said troops were back in the village later on Tuesday, searching for the rock-thrower, and Netanyahu said on Twitter that Israel would “settle the score with him”.
Residents of Yabad clashed with the troops, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Separately, a Palestinian tried to stab Israeli security staff at Qalandiya checkpoint, around 50km (30 miles) to the south on the West Bank boundary and was shot, an Israeli police spokesman said, adding that no Israelis were wounded. The Palestinian was taken by ambulance to hospital in critical condition, an Israeli emergency service said.
A Palestinian man was in a critical condition after the incident at Qalandiya checkpoint [Ammar Awad/Reuters]
The Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future state and deem Israeli settlements there illegal, as do most world powers. Israel and the United States dispute that view.
US-backed peacemaking between the two sides broke down in 2014.
Israel’s proposed territorial steps in the West Bank are expected to be discussed during a one-day visit on Wednesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will meet Netanyahu as well as the prime minister’s designated coalition partner, Benny Gantz.
“We [also] hope that we can convince the Palestinian leadership that they should engage with the Israelis on the basis of the [Trump] Vision for Peace,” Pompeo told the Israel Hayom newspaper in an interview.
President Donald Trump unveiled a new plan for Israel-Palestine in January, but his administration has been boycotted by the Palestinians, who see bias in moves such as his 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The plan, categorically rejected by the Palestinians, gives Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and strategic areas of the West Bank.
For much of the international community, such a move by Israel would amount to a grave violation of international law and crush hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could also further inflame regional tensions.
The initial Israeli raid on Yabad was launched to arrest Palestinians suspected of previously throwing rocks at Israeli cars and of other offences, the military spokesman said.
By midday, 16 Palestinians had been arrested in the Jenin area, Palestinian officials said.
The Israeli military said troops were back in the village later on Tuesday, searching for the alleged rock-thrower [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
Israeli MPs have approved the formation of a unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz, paving the way to an end to more than a year of deadlock.
Parliament voted by 71 votes to 37 to back the coalition deal that will see Netanyahu and Gantz, a centrist former military leader, share power.
The two leaders have said they will swear in their new administration on May 13, with Netanyahu remaining leader for 18 months, before handing over to Gantz who will be prime minister for the next 18 months.
The proposed government was challenged in the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu was ineligible to rule due to a series of corruption indictments. They also complained that certain provisions in the coalition deal broke the law.
But the court ruled on Wednesday evening that “there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government” led by Netanyahu.
It added that by approving the coalition it “was not seeking to diminish the severity of the charges” against Netanyahu, but concluded that those could be handled in his trial, which is due to begin on May 24.
Israel has been without a stable government since December 2018, with the country seeing three successive elections in which Gantz’s centrist Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud were near neck and neck.
During that time Netanyahu has remained in power in a caretaker capacity.
Netanyahu has been charged with accepting improper gifts and illegally trading favours in exchange for positive media coverage.
He denies wrongdoing but if the trial goes ahead as planned, he will become the first serving Israeli leader to be tried.
After the third election in March this year, Gantz broke with large parts of his Blue and White alliance and agreed to form a unity government.
He said it was necessary to provide political stability as the country seeks to repair the economic damage wrought by a coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 16,000 people.
Gantz’s critics, including many former allies, accuse him of betraying his voters after campaigning for cleaner politics and pledging not to serve under an indicted prime minister.
While Israeli law bars ministers from serving while under indictment, there is no such law for prime ministers.