2 Palestinians killed by Israeli security in West Bank

JERUSALEM (AP): Two Palestinian men died Sunday from gunshot wounds from Israeli security personnel in separate incidents, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as Israeli forces sealed off the home of an east Jerusalem man who killed seven people outside a synagogue on Friday.

They were the latest Palestinian casualties in one of the bloodiest months in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem in recent years, and followed two Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis in Jerusalem. The escalating violence threatened to further raise tensions and cast a cloud over a visit next week by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The ministry said an 18-year-old Palestinian man who was shot by a security guard next to the West Bank settlement of Kedumim died Sunday. The Israeli military said that a settlement security guard had identified a man armed with a pistol outside the settlement and shot him.

The ministry also confirmed the death of a 24-year-old Palestinian man who was wounded in an Israeli army raid in Jenin on Thursday that killed nine other Palestinians. There was no immediate claim of his affiliation with a militant group.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli police sealed up the east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian attacker who killed seven people and wounded three outside a synagogue, one of several punitive measures approved by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet overnight.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Israel said Saturday that one of the seven people was a Ukrainian national. Israeli media reported that Irina Korlova, a healthcare worker, was killed along with six Israelis in the shooting.

The weekend shootings followed a deadly Israeli raid in the West Bank on Thursday that killed 10 Palestinians, most of them militants. In response, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, triggering a series of Israeli airstrikes in response. In all, 34 Palestinians have been killed in fighting this month.

Addressing the Cabinet on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said that “we sealed the home of the terrorist who carried out the horrendous attack in Jerusalem, and his home will be demolished.”

“We are not seeking an escalation, but we are prepared for any scenario. Our answer to terrorism is a heavy hand and a strong, swift and precise response,” he said.

The army said that in the wake of the Jerusalem shootings, it would be deploying troops to assist police with security in the city and areas along the separation barrier.

The police on Sunday released footage of Israeli army engineers welding metal plates over the windows and welding the front door shut as part of the operation in response to Friday night’s deadly shooting.

Police said the attacker, identified as a 21-year-old east Jerusalem resident, was killed in a shootout with officers after fleeing the scene in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox east Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov.

Relatives of the attacker, Khairi Alqam, said his grandfather was killed in a 1998 stabbing in Jerusalem. The killing remains unsolved, but a Jewish extremist was arrested in 2010 in connection with a string of attacks on Palestinians. He was released and charges were not pressed.

Musa Alqam, the gunman’s father, said he had no idea if his son had been motivated by revenge. “I don’t know how he planned what he did,” he said.

The suspect in the 2010 arrest was assisted by Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is now Israel’s national security minister. At the time, Ben-Gvir was a far-right activist who accompanied the suspect to court.

On Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire elsewhere in east Jerusalem, wounding two Israeli men, paramedics said. The attacker was shot and hospitalized.

Funerals for the victims in Friday’s shooting, the deadliest attack on Israelis since 2008, were scheduled to take place Sunday.

Netanyahu’s Cabinet also said it plans a series of other punitive measures, including canceling social security benefits for the families of attackers, and would take steps to “strengthen the settlements” this week as part of the government’s response to the weekend’s attacks.

Netanyahu said that strengthening settlements in the occupied West Bank was aimed at “sending a message to the terrorists that seek to uproot us from our land that we are here to stay.”

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. It has built dozens of settlements, now home to more than 500,000 Jewish settlers, in the decades since.

Most of the international community considers the settlements an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, who seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state.

In Cairo, Blinken opened his Mideast tour on Sunday and was to speak with students at the American University in the city before holding talks with Egyptian officials on Monday. He was then scheduled to travel to Israel for the most critical leg of the visit for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.