JERUSALEM — One Israeli border policeman was shot to death and another was wounded shortly after noon Saturday when they were ambushed by at least two gunmen in the center of Nablus, the largest city on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, the Israeli military command reported.
Five Palestinian bystanders, including a woman, were also wounded in the incident, an army spokesman said. The Palestine Press Service reported that the Arab victims were wounded by Israeli gunfire, but the army spokesman said that they were all hit by bullets or ricochets from the ambushers' guns.
The shooting fits in with a year-old pattern of increasingly bold West Bank attacks against heavily armed Israeli soldiers and border police.
Early last month, an Israeli soldier walking last in a five-man patrol was stabbed by an unknown assailant at almost the same spot where Saturday's attack occurred. Nablus, which is home to 90,000 Palestinian Arabs, is located about 50 miles north of Jerusalem.
Last summer, a soldier was killed and another wounded by a single knife-wielding attacker in the crowded market in Hebron, the West Bank's second-largest city. And last February, a soldier was shot to death in Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, while standing guard duty.
Two Victims Were Off Duty
An army spokesman said that the two Arabic-speaking border policemen who were victims of Saturday's ambush were in uniform but off duty. They had gone into Nablus with their wives to shop, he said.
At least two gunmen opened fire on them outside a downtown store, felling both policemen before they could return fire, according to the army's statement. A spokesman said that at least one of the gunmen apparently used an automatic weapon. The policemen's wives were not hurt in the attack.
The military command identified the dead man as Sgt. Jamil Farris, 46, a 17-year veteran of the border police and the father of six children.
The army immediately imposed a citywide curfew, which was later modified to include only the immediate area of the shooting. A spokesman reported large-scale detentions and said that house-to-house searches were under way.