Israeli PM Netanyahu warns Hamas after deadly West Bank attacks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Betanyahu's comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement on Dec 13.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Betanyahu's comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement on Dec 13.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday (Dec 16) he had issued a warning to Hamas after recent deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank, including two shootings claimed by the Islamist movement.

Mr Netanyahu referred to a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war.

"I conveyed a clear message to Hamas - we won't accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria," Mr Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank, as is Israel's official policy.

"We will exact a high price over them," he said of the attacks.

Hamas runs the Gaza Strip, but also has a presence in the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu's comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement on Thursday.

On the same day, a baby prematurely delivered after his mother was shot and wounded in a separate attack nearby on Dec 9 also died.

 

Hamas claimed responsibility for the Dec 9 shooting and another in the West Bank on Oct 7 that killed two Israelis.

The two Palestinians behind those attacks were shot dead by Israeli forces during arrest raids last week, Israeli officials said.

Israel's security forces say they have also arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

The attacks came after a deal to restore relative calm to the Gaza Strip that included Israel enabling Qatar to bring fuel and tens of millions of dollars to the besieged territory for salaries.

Hardline Israeli politicians opposed the Gaza agreement and have also criticised Mr Netanyahu over the recent West Bank violence.

On Sunday, hundreds of settlers protested outside Mr Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem to call on the government to increase security measures as well as settlement construction.

Those moves would make Palestinian militants understand that "there's no point to terror and hope in it", said Mr Hananel Dorani, chairman of settler group the Yesha council.

Participating in the protest were a number of ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home.

A ministerial committee headed by Ms Shaked later gave initial approval to a Bill that would help legalise settlement homes built on state land without government approval.

"The terrorists will know that we're here to stay," she said following the vote. "We won't be deterred by attacks."

On Thursday, Ms Shaked said that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had also approved of a way to help legalise some 2,000 West Bank homes considered illegal by Israel as they are located on privately owned Palestinian land.

Right-wing Israelis often call for increased settlement construction and approvals following Palestinian attacks.

All Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Settlements there are seen as major stumbling blocks to a peace deal since they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state.