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Manhunt Underway After Israeli Soldier Killed in West Bank Shooting

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 02:36 AM

JERUSALEM — Israeli troops were on Monday hunting for a suspected Palestinian gunman who shot a soldier dead in Hebron, days after another Palestinian killed a soldier in a separate incident.

The killings have sparked questions over the fate of peace talks relaunched last month after a three-year hiatus, with Israeli ministers calling on the government to reconsider its involvement in negotiations with the Palestinians.

The United States condemned both attacks, which it said "undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiation."

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The Israeli military said on Sunday that a soldier died in hospital after sustaining gunshot wounds in the southern West Bank city Hebron, later identifying him as 20-year-old Sergeant Gabriel Koby from Tirat Hacarmel in northern Israel.

Israeli police had earlier said the soldier had been shot, "probably by terrorists," although the gunman had fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt in Hebron.

A military spokeswoman told AFP on Monday that most of the roadblocks that had been used to seal off the city the previous night were removed by the morning and the army was continuing searches in a "more specific" manner.

The spokeswoman noted the army had apprehended two Palestinians for holding hunting rifles, but said they were not connected to the Sunday incident.

The shooting took place close to the volatile Cave of the Patriarchs, which is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims, during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, which began on Thursday and has seen thousands of Jewish visitors to the biblical city.

On Saturday, Israel discovered the body of Tomer Hazan, a 20-year-old soldier who had been lured to a village in the northern West Bank on Friday and killed by a Palestinian man with whom he had worked in a seaside town near Tel Aviv.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai ruled out a link between the two killings and rebuffed suggestions they indicated a deterioration in Israel's security situation.

"We see these as isolated incidents," Mordechai said in a statement, "not as a new trend."

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced he would be holding consultations Monday with members of the security establishment.

Senior Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett said the two attacks should push Israel to reconsider its involvement in peace talks with the Palestinians.

"Under the auspices of negotiation celebrations, Sukkot has turned into a festival of bloodshed and harm to Israeli soldiers," he said in a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"There is no doubt that there have been unfortunate developments since the start of the negotiations which require the government to reconsider its path," he wrote.

And Transportation Minister Israel Katz, of Netanyahu's Likud party, slammed the Palestinian Authority for not condemning the two killings and called for a halt to the planned release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners, after Israel set 26 free ahead of talks last month.

"Another group [of Palestinian prisoners] is about to be released," he said in a statement. "Now is the time to stop."

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© AFP 2015

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