Violence in the the Israeli-occupied West Bank is ratcheting up, as tensions over Israeli settlements in the area continue to boil over.
Israel is taking "substantial" action in response to the murders of two Israelis this week in Hebron, a city in the West Bank. The Israeli army is working to close off the city, setting up checkpoints, and positioning several hundred soldiers around its perimeter.
Peter Lerner, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) told the Washington Post that Friday's moves were the most significant that the Israeli army had taken on the ground since 2014.
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On Friday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen reportedly shot at an Israeli family who were driving on a highway near Otniel, an Israeli settlement just south of Hebron. The car crashed, killing the man and injuring a woman, as well as two of the ten children who were riding in the car. On Thursday, a 19-year-old Palestinian fatally stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her bedroom, the IDF said.
Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian woman was shot dead after she reportedly tried to attack Israeli soldiers at a contested holy site and flashpoint for violence.
Israel's actions on Friday coincide with the release of a long-awaited report by the "Quartet" — the US, UN, EU and Russia — which assessed the key factors driving the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The report concluded that Israeli settlement expansion, ongoing violence, terrorism and incitement, and the West-Bank based Palestinian Authority's lack of control over Gaza, were three main issues at hand.
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35 Israelis have been murdered by stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attacks since October. In that same period, more than 200 Palestinians — whom Israel say were mostly terrorists or attackers — were also killed.
Closing off Hebron will significantly impact Palestinians' freedom of movement in the area. The Washington Post estimates that 700,000 people live in the area and could be affected.