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One killed, eight wounded in shooting near West Bank settlement

A member of the Israeli security forces walks near a body lying on the road amid vehicles at the scene of a shooting attack on February 22, 2024, near Maale Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem
— Maale Adumim (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Three Palestinian gunmen killed one person and wounded eight, including a young pregnant woman, in a "terror attack" Thursday near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police said.

The shooters were "neutralised", police said, and an AFP photographer later saw two bodies at the scene of the attack on a highway east of Jerusalem, where five cars were riddled with bullets.

"The three terrorists... got out of their vehicle and started shooting automatic weapons at vehicles that were in a traffic jam on the road towards Jerusalem," police said in a statement about the attack near the Maale Adumim settlement.

"Two terrorists were neutralised on the spot," police said. "In the searches conducted at the scene, another terrorist was located who tried to escape and he was also neutralised."

Israeli security forces and rescue teams inspect the scene of the attack

Israel's internal security service Shin Bet identified the gunmen as Mohammed Zawahrah, 26, his brother Kathim Zawahrah, 31, and Ahmed al-Wahsh, also 31.

Among those wounded was a 23-year-old pregnant woman who was in critical condition, said the Magen David Adom emergency response service and Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Violence was already on the rise across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack, but has escalated since then to levels unseen in nearly two decades, with hundreds killed in recent months.

- Movement restrictions -

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the site of Thursday's attack where he told journalists: "The enemies... want to hurt us. They hate us."

He argued that "we need to distribute more weapons" and that "our right to life is superior to the freedom of movement" of residents governed by the Palestinian Authority under president Mahmud Abbas.

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives at the scene of the attack

"There should be more restrictions and we should put barriers around villages and limit the freedom of movement" of people from the West Bank, Ben Gvir added.

Palestinians have complained of worsening Israeli-imposed restrictions in the West Bank since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for a "firm security response... and colonisation" by building thousands of new housing units in settlements like Maale Adumim and across the West Bank.

"Our enemies must know that any harm done to us would result in more construction, more development and even more control over the entire country," he said on X, formerly Twitter.

Palestinian militant group Hamas called for an escalation in such attacks.

"Our people will continue to resist the occupation throughout our country, Palestine, until the occupation is defeated," Hamas said in a statement.

"We call on our revolutionary youth and the free, committed Palestinian people to escalate the confrontation with the occupation and its settlers."

The attack near Maale Adumim came after two people were shot dead last Friday at a bus stop in southern Israel near the town of Kiryat Malakhi.

- Escalating violence -

The West Bank has seen frequent Palestinian attacks on Israelis and near-daily raids by the Israeli military that often turn deadly.

Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Gaza war broke out, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.

Israel captured the West Bank -- including east Jerusalem, which it later annexed -- in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.

Three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on several vehicles near a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank

Around 475,000 Jewish settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, in settlements considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community.

The West Bank's Palestinian population is about 2.9 million.

The Palestinians claim the territory as the heartland of a future independent state, a goal being discussed by the international community as the Hamas-Israel war rages into a fifth month.

Israel's parliament Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Gaza war erupted after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 29,410 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel's retaliatory military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.