Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver who rammed soldiers in West Bank: army

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian driver who rammed his vehicle into three Israeli soldiers, injuring them, on a road in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the army said.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the dead man as Ahmed Reyad Shehada, 36, a resident of Bitunia near the town of Ramallah, close to where the incident took place.

The ministry added later that Israel had returned Shehada’s body to the family for burial. Israeli authorities have been wary of handing back bodies of some assailants because they have said ensuing funerals have stoked further violence.

One of the three injured soldiers was in a life-threatening condition, a spokeswoman at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv said. The other two were lightly hurt and taken to a hospital in Jerusalem, an ambulance spokesman said.

In the last half year, Palestinian attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 194 Palestinians, 133 of whom Israel has said were assailants. Many others were shot dead in clashes and protests.

Factors driving the violence include Palestinian bitterness over stalled statehood negotiations and the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, increased Jewish access to a disputed Jerusalem shrine and Islamist-led calls for Israel’s destruction.

The last violent fatality in the region took place on April 27 when Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian woman and her teenage brother at the major Qalandia crossing in the West Bank. Israeli police said the two were armed with knives and tried to carry out an attack on the checkpoint.

On April 20, a suicide bomber died of his wounds after he detonated a device on a Jerusalem commuter bus two days earlier. Suicide bombings on Israeli buses were a hallmark of the Palestinian revolt of 2000-2005 but have now become rare.

The pace of what had been near-daily Palestinian attacks since October has slowed, and Israel has attributed this partly to closer cooperation with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and more stringent monitoring of social media to identify potential assailants.

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Richard Balmforth, Mark Heinrich, Toni Reinhold