Solider injured in clashes between Israelis, Palestinians in West Bank

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Nov. 19 (UPI) — An Israeli soldier was injured Saturday during confrontations between Jewish worshippers and Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, military officials said.

The female Israeli Defense Forces member was among at least three people hurt during the clashes, which erupted as thousands of Jewish Israelis were participating in an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Othniel Ben Kenaz.

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IDF officials said the soldier was hurt by a Jewish worshipper as two groups hurled stones at each other.

“IDF Chief of the General Staff LTG Aviv Kohavi strongly condemns the attack on an IDF soldier by an Israeli civilian in the city of Hebron earlier today during the security and escort of worshipers to Othoniel Ben Kenaz’s Tomb,” the IDF tweeted in a statement Saturday morning.

“This is a very serious event. It cannot be that an Israeli civilian will violently attack IDF soldiers who operate to protect and keep civilians safe. This shameful and criminal behavior requires a rapid lawful response.”

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The alleged attacker used a stick to hit the soldier as Israeli troops were dispersing the initial protest, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Thousands of Jews were celebrating Shabbat Chayei Sarah Saturday at an annual event in the divided West Bank city. Chayei Sarah is the fifth weekly portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

The confrontation began during a planned entrance of the Jewish visitors to the tomb of Otniel Ben Knaz, the first biblical judge of Israel.

“Attacking an IDF soldier is a national disgrace,” outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid wrote in Hebrew on Twitter.

“This is an injury to Israel’s security, this is a moral injury to the Israel Defense Forces and to those who protect our lives, this is a serious criminal offense,” he added. “This evening I am strengthening the soldiers of the IDF who are guarding our country. We will bring justice to the perpetrators.”

Israeli Defense Secretary Benny Gantz also condemned the altercation, saying, “I am sure that we will exhaust the law with the rioters, who do not represent the settlement, and whose conduct harms the ability to fulfill the security tasks in the sector.”

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Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the incident.

Khader Adnan, a senior official with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, urged further escalation on Saturday.

In a statement to the Palestinian Shehab News, he praised the actions of Palestinian citizens following the violent confrontations, which he blamed on “extremist” Jewish settlers.