A Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli car in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, killing two people, prompting a high-level meeting between Palestinian and Israeli delegations to reduce escalating violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The shadow was cast.
Israeli officials confirmed the deaths and politicians issued condemnation and condolences.
The region has seen tensions between Palestinians and the Israeli army skyrocket over the past year. The army said it was searching for the attacker, who opened fire on a car on the West Bank’s main highway and fled.
West Bank settler leaders called on Israel to withdraw its delegation from talks and crack down on Palestinians, while Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, said no summit would stop Palestinians from protesting .
Israel said the national security adviser to the prime minister as well as the head of the Shin Bet domestic security agency were to attend the talks in neighboring Jordan. The head of the Palestinian intelligence services as well as advisers to President Mahmoud Abbas were expected to attend.
The presence of top officials at the meeting, as well as delegations from Egypt, Jordan and the United States, underscored the seriousness of the crisis. It was also a rare high-level meeting between the two sides, coming at a time of rising tensions and after Palestinians cut security coordination with Israel over violence.
Abbas’ office said the Palestinians would “stress the need to stop all Israeli unilateral actions.” An Israeli official said the meeting was to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan and took place following a US request.
The Palestinian attendees of the meeting were confirmed by a Palestinian official. A Jordanian official also said that the meeting was meant to “stop Israel’s unilateral actions”, to build trust and lead to more extensive contacts between the sides. He said the meeting would take place in Jordan’s Red Sea resort city of Aqaba.
All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.
The Palestinians, who oppose any official engagement with Israel, said they would oppose the meeting, while Hamas criticized the meeting. It called Sunday’s shooting “a natural reaction” to Israeli incursions into the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the resulting deaths.
Spokesman Hazem Kassim said, “Resistance in the West Bank will continue to exist and grow, and no plan or summit will be able to stop it.”
It is not clear what the talks can achieve. Israel has vowed to continue fighting militants in the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority often has little control. Israel is also led by a far-right government that opposes concessions to the Palestinians and supports settlement construction on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians for a future state.
Last week, Israeli officials approved the construction of more than 7,000 new housing units in the occupied West Bank, according to activist groups that attended the planning meeting.
Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has escalated since Israel raided the West Bank following Palestinian attacks last spring. Bloodshed has escalated this year, with more than 60 Palestinians killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to a tally by The Associated Press. In 2023, 13 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle terrorist networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say Israel is pursuing its 55-year open-ended occupation, building on the future state they want, as well as weakening their own security forces.
This year Ramadan coincides with the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover and worshipers from both faiths are expected to flock to holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, which are often a flashpoint for violence between the sides. Clashes broke out at a major Jerusalem holy site last year and tensions at the site helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in 2021.