JERUSALEM — Unknown gunmen shot and killed an Israeli soldier in the biblical city of Hebron in the West Bank on Sunday, and troops are searching for the shooter, the military said.
It was the second soldier killed since the weekend when a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier with the intention of trading the body for his brother who is jailed for shooting attacks.
The killings further increase mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians at a time of U.S. mediated peace talks that restarted this summer.
Sgt. Gabriel Koby, 20, was critically injured by direct fire while securing an area in the evening where over a thousand people were visiting for the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, the military said. He was evacuated to hospital where he died of his wounds, it said.
Tensions run high in Hebron where about 500 Israelis live amid 170,000 Palestinians. Much of the animosity is over a holy site, sacred to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.
The military said it had restricted movement on the area while searches are under way for the gunman. Israeli media reported that the soldier had been shot in the neck by a sniper from a distance but the military wouldn’t go into detail.
The latest deaths casts another shadow on U.S. mediated peace efforts as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding rounds of talks gain after a hiatus of nearly five years. Talks collapsed in 2008, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent months early this year persuading the sides to get talks back on track again. Israel has made its security concerns a top priority in talks.
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian border official said earlier in the day that Israel is allowing construction materials into the Palestinian territory for the first time in six years, allowing them to be used by private builders.
Israel barred the entry of construction materials into Gaza when Hamas overran the territory in 2007, fearing militants could use them to build weapons and fortifications. It has allowed them in for projects funded by international organizations like the United Nations since 2010.