Two Israelis shot and killed in the West Bank, settler leader says

JERUSALEM (CNN): Two Israelis were shot and killed in the West Bank Sunday, local settler leader Yossi Dagan said, calling it “an extremely serious terrorist attack.”

The Israel Defense Forces said earlier that a “terrorist arrived to the Einbus junction and opened fire towards an Israeli vehicle.”

Two Israelis were wounded and taken to a hospital, the IDF said, adding that it was pursuing the attacker.

The Magen David Adom medical agency and settler leader Dagan later said both had died.

Another local settler leader said he was present when the two were shot.

“The shooting took place right behind me. It looked terrible – the shooting was from point blank range,” said Shai Alon, the head of Beit El council, adding that Israel needed to “go to war against those who wish us harm.”

The incident took place in Huwara, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, days after a massive Israeli military raid into Nablus in search of wanted militants left at least 11 Palestinians dead.

Lion’s Den, a Palestinian militant group that emerged in Nablus last year, claimed six of Wednesday’s dead as members, and vowed revenge.

“As big as the pain filling Nablus, the occupation will taste twice the pain,” the group said, referring to Israel. “They will know that the fighters of the honorable groups in Nablus will not take a step back.”

Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, called after Sunday’s killings for Israel to break off ongoing security talks between Israel and the Palestinians brokered by Jordan, Egypt and the United States, saying: “I demand that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and all the ministers return the delegation from the idle talks in Aqaba…. We need to launch an operation against terrorism!”

Israel and the Palestinian Authority confirmed earlier Sunday that they were in five-party talks in Jordan on the heels one of the most violent starts to a year in two decades. Egypt and the United States are participating along with the Jordanian hosts.

An Israeli official said the participants “will discuss ways to calm security tensions in the region ahead of the month of Ramadan,” which begins in March.

The Israeli delegation includes National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi; the head of the Shin Bet Ronan Bar; the coordinator of government operations in the territories Major General Rasan Elian, and the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ronan Levy, the source said, asking not to be named discussing diplomatic negotiations.

The high-level Palestinian delegation “will stress the need to stop all Israeli unilateral actions and abide by the signed agreements,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported Sunday.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that governs Gaza, condemned the Palestinian Authority’s participation, calling it a “fruitless move.” A Hamas statement urged the PA “irrevocably end security coordination” with Israel, which the Palestinian Authority officially broke off in January after and Israeli raid into Jenin that left 11 Palestinians dead.

Lion’s Den and the Palestinian National Initiative, an independent political party, also urged the PA not to participate.