Ramallah: Two Israeli colonists were wounded on Wednesday night in a shooting attack near Ramallah.
Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamist Movement of Hamas, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the second in just 24 hours, after the Hebron operation in which four Israelis died.
Israeli Army and police are now searching for an Escoda vehicle, believed to have been used in the attack, in which an Israeli couple was targeted. They were in the car on the Rimonin conjunction, east of Ramallah, when the man was shot at around 11pm on Wednesday. He lost control of the wheel immediately, leading it to overturn several times. He suffered serious injures, while the woman was left with minor wounds.
Ramallah has now been sealed off with road checkpoints installed at all entrances to the city, leading to serious road congestion in certain areas with even visitors refused permission to leave.
In an official statement, Al Qassam Brigades said they claimed full responsibility for the attack, stating that it was another episode in a chain of planned operations to be conducted across the West Bank in response to crimes committed by the occupation forces.
The statement added that the Ramallah operation was a message to both the Israelis and those Palestinians aiding them. It described as heroes those who carried out the Hebron incident. The point of the Ramallah operation, it said, was to reinforce to the Israelis that their crimes will never go unpunished and to point out that, despite efforts by the Israeli military, Hamas will achieve its aims.
The statement added that the Hebron and Ramallah operations happened within a day of each other to prove wrong those who claimed on Tuesday that what happened in Hebron would never be repeated. It warned that the Ramallah operation would not be the last of such attacks.
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned both attacks.
Hamas is aiming only to upset the peace process and have a negative affect on the direct negotiations, he said, adding that such operations can not be classified under resistance as Hamas has already agreed to stop its resistance efforts and turn its attention to tracking down terrorists.
Fatah officially accused Hamas of helping to serve the Israeli agenda and said that the attacks irrevocably damage the accomplishments of the Palestinian Authority.
According to Ahmad Assaf, the Fatah spokesman, Hamas is working hard to threaten stability in the West Bank, in a bid to start a rebellion, a par with that of Gaza.
He added that the timing of the operations was crucial and added that Hamas has recently been engaging in activity which has only increased the power of the Israelis.
Another Fatah official pointed out that the two operations in Hebron and Ramallah had provided Netanyahu with a weapon to use in the negotiations. He added that Hamas had weakened the position of the Palestinian Authority, given Netenyahu an excuse to exaggerate security demands for his country and granted Israel unconditional support from the US, as well as increasing international sympathy for Israel.
If Hamas had not claimed responsibility for the attacks, it would have been assumed that the Israelis had planned them to strengthen their negotiating position, he said.
As a result, Israeli colonists are now pressuring the government to end the colony construction freeze in Gaza. The Fatah official said that some colonists have already restarted construction in the colonies without the consent of the government.
He added that the Israeli government has also provided arms to the colonists, who they claim need them for self defence.