Three Israelis killed at West Bank settlement
HAR ADAR - A Palestinian opened fire at Israeli security personnel at the entrance to a West Bank settlement on Tuesday, killing three and wounding another before being shot dead, police said.
The attack, which came as US envoy Jason Greenblatt was in Jerusalem for talks on relaunching the moribund Middle East peace process, drew condemnation from Israeli officials who demanded action from the Palestinian leadership.
"A terrorist who arrived at the rear gate of Har Adar along with Palestinian labourers entering the settlement... pulled out a weapon and opened fire at the force at the site," police said.
"Three Israelis were killed in the attack, another was wounded and the terrorist was neutralised."
Police later said the Palestinian had died of his wounds.
An AFP correspondent saw a heavy police presence around Har Adar, a well-to-do settlement northwest of Jerusalem high in the hills close to the Green Line that separates the occupied West Bank from Israel.
"When I arrived I saw three people died, and the terrorist died, and they took care of the people who died," paramedic Moiti Fried said.
The shooter was identified by police as a 37-year-old man from Beit Surik, a Palestinian village near Har Adar, who carried a work permit for the settlement.
As he approached the checkpoint at the entrance, he aroused the suspicion of security forces, who ordered him to halt, police said.
He then pulled out a pistol and opened fire on border police and civilian security guards, before being shot.
Israel's Shin Bet internal security service said the shooter was a father of four with no previous "security background".
The wounded Israeli was admitted to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem in serious condition, the hospital said.
Police commissioner Roni Alsheich said the evidence suggested that the gunman had intended to penetrate the settlement and shoot the residents inside.
"As we see time and again, the threats are moving to the home front. This time they chose a town that's on the seam," he said, referring to the settlement's proximity to the Green Line.
"The quick reaction of the security forces" who identified and shot the gunman "prevented the terrorist from entering the settlement," he told reporters in Har Adar.
The latest attack comes nearly two years after a wave of unrest broke out.
The violence had greatly subsided in recent months but Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman warned in a briefing to the cabinet earlier this month that the risk of new attacks was ever present.
"Despite the relative calm, the security reality in the West Bank is fragile," he said.
- 'Palestinian reception' -
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the Palestinian leadership needed to take action against such attacks or there would be no point in following up on the US initiative to relaunch peace talks.
"The terrible attack at Har Adar is the Palestinian reception for US envoy Jason Greenblatt," she said.
"The American efforts must focus first of all on ending the murderous Palestinian terror."
Hotovely renewed the Israeli government's call for the Palestinian Authority to stop paying allowances to the families of those who lost their lives carrying out attacks.
"There's no point negotiating with someone who just fans the flames of terror and continues to pay terrorist's families," she said.
The issue is a deeply divisive one, with many Palestinians seeing those killed carrying out attacks against the "occupation forces" as martyrs, while Israelis see them as "terrorists".
Since October 2015, the unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories has killed at least 295 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 50 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll.
Israeli authorities say that most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.
Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
West Bank settlements are a source of significant tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and have been a major sticking point in peace talks.
The UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council on Monday that Israel continues to build settlements "at a high rate," in defiance of Security Council demands for an end to the expansion of Jewish outposts.
From June to September, new construction was mostly in Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem, with plans for some 2,300 new housing units -- a 30 percent increase from last year, he said.
Nine months ago, the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to settlements. The measure passed after the United States declined to use its veto and instead abstained.