Palestinian assailants kill Israeli guard in West Bank

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian assailants shot and killed a guard at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said, in another attack that has heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the past two months.

The Israeli military said early Saturday that the attackers had arrived at the entrance to the Ariel settlement and shot the guard in his post before fleeing the crime scene. The army gave chase to the suspects in the West Bank.

In a separate incident, Israeli forces shot and killed a 27-year-old Palestinian man early Saturday during clashes in the village of Azoun near the town of Qalqilya, the Palestinian health ministry said.

A series of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank over the past two months have killed 14 Israelis.

Hamas, the militant group that rules in Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

“The operation proves that the revolution is raging all over the West Bank,” said spokesman Hazem Qassem. “This is a practical implementation of our people’s declaration that Jerusalem is a red line.”

Tensions mounted this month at a major holy site in Jerusalem, with Palestinian worshipers clashing daily with Israeli police. The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and more and more Palestinians are praying there during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier Friday, Palestinians threw rocks and Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets at the site, which has sparked a wave of unrest in recent weeks.

Police say Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque began hurling rocks and fireworks at a heavily guarded gate leading to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, around dawn. Police entered the area and fired rubber-coated bullets.

The violence ended about an hour later after other Palestinians at the compound intervened, convincing the stone throwers and police to withdraw.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Emergency Service said more than 40 people were injured, 22 of whom had to be treated in local hospitals. It said Israeli forces prevented first responders from entering the compound during the clashes, and one of the medics was beaten by police.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in a statement they had arrested three people.

The Al-Aqsa mosque complex is built on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish temples in ancient times. It has long been a focal point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed there several times in recent weeks. Israeli authorities accuse Hamas of inciting violence and say security forces had to step in to stop the stone-throwing.

The Palestinians say the Israeli police presence at the site, and regular visits by an increasing number of nationalist and religious Jews, violate decades-old informal arrangements governing the site. Visits were halted last week for the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend.

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