An Israeli soldier was killed during a West Bank arrest raid when a rock thrown off a rooftop struck him in the head, the military has said.
The military typically carries out such predawn raids against wanted terrorists in the West Bank, occasionally encountering local resistance, but the killing of a soldier is rare and this marked the first military casualty of the year.
The military said 21-year-old Staff Sgt Amit Ben-Yigal was on routine “operational activity” near the West Bank city of Jenin when a large rock was thrown off a rooftop and struck him on the head.
A search was on for the attacker.
Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the forces had completed their mission and were leaving the village of Yaabed when the soldier was struck.
He called the village a “known hotbed of militant activity”.
Lt Col Conricus said the soldier was wearing a protective helmet and was quickly evacuated for medical treatment but later died of his wounds.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the soldier’s family and vowed that “Israel’s long arm would reach the terrorist” behind the attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"On behalf of myself and the citizens of Israel, I would like to send sincere condolences to the family of Amit Ben-Yigal, who was killed by depraved individuals during an operation last night.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) May 12, 2020
בשמי ובשם אזרחי ישראל אני מבקש לשלוח תנחומים כנים למשפחתו של עמית בן יגאל שנרצח הלילה בפעילות מבצעית ע"י בן עוולה. יהי זכרו ברוך.
כפי שקרה בכל המקרים בשנים האחרונות – ידה הארוכה של ישראל תגיע למחבל ותבוא עמו חשבון. pic.twitter.com/C0TyfUOS0i
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 12, 2020
Israel has seen a series of shootings, stabbings and car-ramming attacks in recent years, mostly carried out by lone attackers with no apparent links to armed groups.
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have praised the attacks but have not claimed responsibility for them.
The most recent such attack came two weeks ago, on Israel’s Memorial Day, when a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman outside a shopping centre before he was shot and wounded by a bystander.
Tuesday’s raid was aimed at arresting four Palestinians wanted for stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles and other recent attacks.
It comes a day after Israeli forces demolished the home of a Palestinian accused of being behind a deadly blast in the West Bank last year.
Israel says 22-year-old Qassem Barghouti carried out the attack last August that killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb and wounded her father and brother near the settlement of Dolev.
As the demolition took place on Monday, dozens of Palestinians burned tyres and threw rocks and firebombs towards Israeli troops.
Several Palestinians were wounded in the ensuing clashes.
The uptick comes as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is expected to arrive on Wednesday for a quick visit to discuss Israeli plans to annex large parts of the West Bank as early as this summer.
Mr Netanyahu is set to swear in his new government this week and his new coalition agreement with former rival Benny Gantz allows him to present an annexation proposal as soon as July 1.
The Palestinians claim the entire West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the heartland of an independent state.
Annexing chunks of this territory would be likely to put an end to the Palestinians’ already diminishing hopes of a two-state solution.
Annexation would also anger the international community, which overwhelmingly supports Palestinian statehood.
But with a friendly White House behind him, and a Donald Trump Middle East plan envisioning handing 30% of the West Bank to permanent Israeli control, Mr Netanyahu appears poised to push forward with the plan and bring dozens of Jewish settlements under Israeli sovereignty.