Tensions Build Over Trump Peace Plan

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 28: U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. The news conference was held to announce the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP

A Palestinian driver rammed a car into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem in a suspected terrorist attack that injured 14 people while two Palestinians were killed during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank, a week after President Trump unveiled his peace plan for the region.

In a separate incident, an unidentified man shot and injured an Israeli policeman in Jerusalem’s Old City, in what Israeli police said was another terror attack. The assailant was shot and killed before the Israeli military reported its soldiers came under fire from an assailant near the town of Qalqilya in the West Bank, lightly injuring one. The Israeli military said it was in pursuit of the assailant.

Thursday’s flurry of violence comes as the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan continues to amplify tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, at least in the short term. The Palestinians quickly rejected Mr. Trump’s proposals for a peace pact, saying they heavily favor the Israelis by granting Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the Palestinian population in the West Bank, has threatened to cut security ties with Israel in response, while Hamas, the political group that rules Gaza, has called for violent resistance.

Israel’s military said the soldiers attacked in Jerusalem earlier Thursday were on a cultural tour of the city. One soldier was seriously hurt in the car attack, which also injured two civilians. The Palestinian driver fled the scene and is being pursued, the military said.

Palestinian health officials said the Palestinian killed Thursday during clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin was 19 years old. Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israeli soldiers came under attack by a group of Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails and sniper fire. He said Israeli soldiers shot and killed a sniper in response but couldn’t immediately confirm if the teenager was the sniper.

Israeli soldiers also shot and injured a Palestinian security officer while in Jenin, Mr. Conricus said. It wasn’t clear if the Palestinian officer had first fired at Israeli soldiers or was caught in crossfire and shot accidentally, he said. The officer, named by Palestinian health officials as 1st Lt. Tareq Ahmad Badwan, 25, later died of his wounds.

Mr. Conricus said the Israeli soldiers were in Jenin carrying out a court-ordered demolition of a house belonging to a Palestinian convicted of killing an Israeli.

The West Bank has seen a steady stream of protests by Palestinians against the Trump administration’s peace plan since it was unveiled last week, with some leading to clashes with Israeli security forces. Palestinians say the plan kills any chance for a viable Palestinian state to be established, while paving the way for Israel’s right-wing government to annex lands in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a third national election in a year after two inconclusive votes, announced he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements following the publication of the U.S. peace plan. Polls show Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters approve of his plans.

But the Israeli premier put the brakes on his annexation plan after U.S. officials clarified that Israel would need to wait until after a U.S.-Israel committee had surveyed the land after the Israeli election on March 2.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office released a statement Thursday blaming the Trump peace plan for creating an “atmosphere for the escalation and tension by trying to impose false facts.”

Since 2015, Palestinians have regularly carried out rammings, shootings and stabbings against Israelis when tensions have flared. Eight Israelis were killed in such attacks between March 2018 and August 2019, according to Israel’s foreign ministry. The violence has often revolved around who has control of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians also want as a capital for their future state.

Mr. Conricus said there has been “a rise in the intensity of violence” against the Israeli military in recent days, including the use of Molotov cocktails and IEDs, but wouldn’t connect the violence to the release of the Trump peace plan.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man who the Israeli military said had thrown a Molotov cocktail at soldiers during clashes in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem Thursday morning called the violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank “a natural reaction to Trump’s liquidation deal,” in a reference to the U.S. president’s peace plan.

Also on Thursday, Israel said it carried out airstrikes against two Hamas military sites after militants in Gaza fired three mortars at Israel. The past week has seen near-daily incidences of mortar and rocket fire aimed at Israel followed by Israeli military reprisals

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