Middle East

Palestinian woman killed, Israeli teen wounded in shootings

Palestinians fired at Jewish worshippers near a shrine in the West Bank's largest city of Hebron on Friday, wounding two people, one of them seriously, the military said.

In a separate attack, an Israeli was seriously wounded after being fired on by Palestinians south of Hebron, the military said.

Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 73-year-old Palestinian woman in Hebron in what the Israeli military said was an attempt to attack them with her car.

The city, home to more than 200,000 Palestinians, has been a flashpoint in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations. Tensions have been running high in Hebron, where hundreds of combat troops guard about 850 Jewish settlers in the downtown area where they live amid tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Friday's shooting near the shrine — revered by Muslims and Jews as the burial site of biblical patriarchs — could signal a further escalation of violence. In the unrest that erupted in mid-September, most Palestinian assaults on Israelis so far have been stabbing attacks.

Guns and assault rifles are available and accessible in the West Bank, including on the black market and in the possession of Palestinian militant groups.

Thousands of Jewish worshippers visited Hebron on Friday for prayers linked to Sarah, the biblical matriarch believed to be buried at the site.

The Israeli military said shots were fired near the shrine, wounding two Israelis, one of them seriously. Media reports said the seriously wounded Israeli is 16 years old, and an 18-year-old was lightly hurt.

Earlier Friday, 73-year-old Tharwat Sharawi was killed by army fire at a gas station in Hebron, her family and the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The military said the woman's car slowed down and then sped toward the soldiers. It said troops jumped out of the way unharmed and opened fire. Footage on Israeli TV showed bullet holes in the car's front and back windshields.

Sharawi's son Ayoub, 52, denied his mother, who started driving in her 50s, intended to harm anyone. He said she had been on her way to her sister's house for lunch when she was killed.

Sharawi, a mother of seven, was widowed in 1988 when her husband died from what Ayoub Sharawi said was tear gas fired by Israeli troops near a mosque.

"If she had wanted to take revenge (for her husband's death), she could have done that a long time ago," Sharawi said. "There is no way she wanted to run over soldiers."

Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli man standing outside an Israeli-run supermarket was seriously wounded in a Palestinian stabbing attack, and troops were searching for the assailant, the army said.

On the Gaza-Israel border, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in a confrontation between stone-throwers and Israeli troops, Gaza health officials said.

The latest violence came after nearly two months of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations.

The bloodshed was triggered by unrest at a major Jerusalem shrine revered by both Muslims and Jews, and quickly spread to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza border.

Israel has accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of inciting the violence. Palestinians say the violence is due to a lack of hope for gaining independence after years of failed peace efforts.

Since mid-September, 11 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them in stabbings, while 72 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 45 who Israel said were involved in attacks or attempted attacks. The other 27 Palestinians were killed in clashes between stone-throwers and security forces.

In the past two months, there have been near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Most were stabbings, but in several cases, Palestinians used cars as weapons by ramming them into people.

At the same time, rights groups have alleged that Israeli troops have used excessive force against Palestinians, in some cases shooting dead suspected assailants who the rights groups said could have been arrested.