Israel says troops in West Bank kill Palestinian attempting ramming attack

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian who tried to ram a tractor into soldiers and civilians in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, the Israeli military said.

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The troops tried to stop the man after he attempted to run over an officer and a soldier with a “Bobcat” vehicle in Hebron, a military statement said.

“The terrorist turned around and continued driving with the intention to attack nearby civilians,” the statement said. “An additional soldier who was positioned on top of the roof of a nearby building identified the threat to the civilians who stood nearby and, in response, fired at the terrorist.”

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank with a population of some 200,000. About 1,000 Israeli settlers live in the heart of the flashpoint city, protected by the Israeli military.

Footage circulating on social media showed Israeli soldiers pulling a man’s body out of a small tractor standing in a street.

An earlier military statement said: “A terrorist attempted to run over IDF (Israel Defence Forces) troops located at the site with his vehicle. In response, the troops fired towards the terrorist, killing him. No IDF troops were injured.”

The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the man was killed but officials gave no further details on the incident which comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

At least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in weekly border demonstrations launched on March 30 in the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortar bombs and rockets into Israel from Gaza, drawing Israeli air strikes.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and a bid by the U.S. administration to restart them has so far shown no sign of progress.

The Palestinians are outraged at President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinians have limited self rule in parts of the West Bank, where President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway. Gaza is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group, which Israel and the West designate as a terrorist organization.

Citing security concerns, Israel keeps a naval blockade on Gaza and tight control of its land crossings. The Israeli military controls most the territory of the West Bank, where Israeli settlements have expanded over the years.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Maayan Lubell