Palestinians fire on bus with Israeli soldiers in West Bank, 6 injured

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JORDAN VALLEY, West Bank, September 4 (Reuters) – Palestinians fired on an Israeli bus traveling on a desert highway in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, Israeli military authorities and medics said, injuring five soldiers and the driver in a an attack suggesting the violence could spiral again.

The incident, in which authorities said two suspected gunmen were arrested as they tried to escape, happened a short drive from Jenin and Nablus, Palestinian cities that have seen months of intensive and often deadly sweeps by Israeli security.

Witnesses said Palestinians in a car drove past the bus, sprayed it with bullets and, when it stopped, tried to set it on fire. Israeli television broadcast footage of a burning car after a firebomb exploded inside.

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There was no immediate Palestinian claim of responsibility, but an Islamist Hamas spokesman hailed the attack as “proof that all attempts by the occupation (Israel) to stop the escalation of resistance in the West Bank have failed”.

Israel has intensified its raids in the West Bank in recent months after several deadly attacks on Palestinians in its towns between March and May.

The violence has added to the obstacles in the race for Palestinian independence. US-sponsored statehood talks with Israel stalled in 2014, economic prospects are bleak and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited autonomy in the West Bank , has seen its national credibility undermined.

Ram Ben-Barak, head of the Israeli parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, said he hoped for a peace deal with the PA, but called that prospect unachievable at the moment.

“The situation is very sensitive and volatile, on the one hand, while on the other hand we are seeing a growing number of Palestinians who understand that the way forward is not one of violence,” Ben-Barak said. on Israeli Army Radio.

Israel, he added, would respond “with great force…while allowing those unwilling to turn to terrorism to continue with their routine lives.”

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Written by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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