Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers near West Bank settlement

Tensions have been high after a far-right Israeli national security minister took office last month

Israeli soldiers at the scene of an incident near Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reuters
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Violence in the Israeli occupied West Bank left at least one person dead on Sunday, Palestinian Health Authorities said.

A man identified as Ahmad Kahla, 45, was shot dead near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, which lies on the Jerusalem-Nablus main road.

The Israeli military did not comment on the incident, but Israeli media said he had been carrying a knife and had tried to attack soldiers.

Tensions have been high for months in the occupied territory, where the Israeli military has been staging nightly arrest raids since last spring.

The raids were prompted by a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people, while another 10 Israelis were killed in a second string of attacks later last year.

The security outlook worsened further when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regained office last month, appointing what some analysts have called the most right-wing Israeli government to date.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been linked to an Israeli far-right movement that the US and EU have designated as a terrorist group, stirred tensions on January 3 when he visited the Al Aqsa mosque complex, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

Large scale violence — which erupted in May last year after provocations at Al Aqsa, sparking a war in Gaza that left more than 200 people dead — was averted after Mr Netanyahu clarified that his government had no intention of changing the status of the holy site.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, according to figures from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, making it the deadliest year since 2004.

Since the start of this year, 13 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

Israel said most of the dead were militants. But Palestinian stone-throwers, youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations also have been killed.

Israel said the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel's open-ended, 55-year occupation of lands they seek for their future independent state.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians want for their hoped-for state. Israel has since settled 500,000 people in about 130 settlements across the West Bank, which the Palestinians and much of the international community view as an obstacle to peace.

Updated: January 15, 2023, 12:16 PM