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Hebron remains tense after shooting of Israeli soldier

September 23, 2013|By Batsheva Sobelman
  • Israeli security forces patrol the West Bank city of Hebron.
Israeli security forces patrol the West Bank city of Hebron. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP/Getty…)

JERUSALEM -- The day after the fatal shooting of an Israeli soldier in Hebron, the West Bank city remained tense Monday as thousands of Jewish visitors toured sites there under increased security.

Israeli forces were widely deployed to guard Sukkhot holiday festivities scheduled in Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank as officials continued to investigate the the soldier's death in an apparent Palestinian sniper attack Sunday evening.

Also over the weekend, an off-duty soldier from central Israel was killed by a Palestinian co-worker, who lured the soldier to his West Bank village, officials said.

After the slayings, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called special security consultations to discuss the situation in the West Bank. Israel will not tolerate attempts by "organized or lone terrorists to target civilians or soldiers" and disrupt daily life, Yaalon said.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said the events served as a reminder that although "everything seems quiet and peaceful," the army has its plate full on several fronts.

Gantz said the two killings were "a tragic coincidence of events" and not necessarily a trend. 

However, right-wing politicians linked the killings to renewed peace talks with the Palestinians, and some bashed the government's decision to release Palestinian prisoners during the negotiations.

"The Palestinians interpret this not as a humanitarian gesture but as capitulation," Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Israeli media. "Releasing murderers increases their appetite for murder" and must stop, Katz said. 

"We will continue to fight terrorism and strike terrorists with one hand and strengthen settlement with the other," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ordered immediate action to increase the Jewish presence in Hebron.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich called Netanyahu's move "a capitulation" to appease extremists in his party and urged him to move ahead with the peace talks with the Palestinians.

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Sobelman is a news assistant in The Times' Jerusalem bureau.

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