RAMALLAH: Israeli security forces said they shot and killed two Palestinians who carried out a car-ramming attack on Monday in the occupied West Bank that injured a soldier and a policeman.
A senior Palestinian official claimed the initial incident was likely an accident, with the car colliding into an Israeli military vehicle as it rounded a bend.
The army said security forces fired at three assailants, “neutralising two of them and lightly injuring a third,” while police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two of the Palestinians were killed.
“Assailants ran over a number of soldiers who had stopped at the side of the road on their way out of the village” of Kafr Nama, northwest of Ramallah, a military statement said.
“An (army) officer was severely injured and a border police soldier was lightly injured as a result,” the army said.
Rosenfeld said that the policeman injured in the pre-dawn attack was subsequently released from hospital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised soldiers for having swiftly “eliminated” the attackers and vowed to fast-track the demolitions of their homes.
“I have ordered that the demolitions of these homes be speeded up,” he said.
Israel regularly razes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Rights groups criticize the practice as collective punishment since family members suffer from the actions of relatives.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem also says “it is carried out without trial and without any requirement to present evidence.”
The Palestinian health ministry named the two men killed as Amir Mahmoud Darraj and Yussef Anqawi, both 20.
Kafr Nama’s mayor said that troops were leaving the village on foot after a raid to arrest a Palestinian suspect there when the incident occurred.
Mahmoud Habbash, the Palestinian supreme judge and adviser to president Mahmoud Abbas, later questioned the Israeli version of events.
“It is inconceivable that three young men carry out an operation to run over the occupation soldiers in a car. One driver would be enough,” he said in a statement carried by official news agency Wafa.
The evidence, he added, suggested it was “a normal traffic accident between the Palestinian car and an occupation vehicle,” calling the subsequent shooting a “deliberate killing.”
Israel’s army said its troops had arrested 11 alleged operatives of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Ramallah area overnight.
It added that “an initial inquiry suggests that earlier in the evening, the assailants of the car-ramming attack also hurled firebombs at a crossing.”
“Additional firebombs were later found in the vehicle that had been used in the terror attack,” the army statement said.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and has fought three wars with Israel, praised the car-ramming but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
A statement hailing the attack said the Palestinian people “will continue their struggle against the occupier until they achieve complete freedom and free their land.”