Three Border Police officers were wounded on Sunday afternoon in a suspected Palestinian vehicular assault at the Beit Einun junction on Route 60, just outside Hebron.
It was the second attack of the day against security forces at that junction, and the fourth incident of Palestinian violence near that location in the past week.
Palestinians have increasingly focused their attacks on the Hebron area and the stretch of Route 60 that goes from the Kiryat Arba settlement through the Beit Einun junction and onward to the Gush Etzion region until the road reaches Jerusalem.
On Sunday afternoon, a car speed toward the junction, struck three Border Police officers and fled the scene. Other officers opened fire at the vehicle, but failed to force it to stop.
Border Police and the IDF set up roadblocks and combed the area for the driver and vehicle. Later in the evening, the driver turned himself in to Israeli security forces and he was interrogated by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Palestinians claimed the incident was a hit-and-run accident and not a deliberate attack.
Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene found three young officers on the road, one of whom was moderately wounded. He was evacuated to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. The other two officers, a man and a woman, were treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital for light wounds.
Earlier in the day, a soldier shot and killed a Palestinian man with a knife who attempted to stab another soldier at the junction.
According to witnesses, he ran at the soldiers yelling “Allah Akbar.” No Israelis were wounded in that attack.
Palestinian video footage from a building located near the incident showed soldiers standing around the body, one of them could be heard cursing the dead assailant and calling him “the son of a whore.”
On Thursday, Palestinians threw stones at cars at the junction; a pregnant Israeli woman was lightly wounded in the face by glass shards from the shattered window of her vehicle.
Last Monday, security forces shot and killed a Palestinian man near the junction after he stabbed an IDF soldier in the neck.
South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damari said he and his area counterparts had warned the IDF that the traffic circle by Beit Einun, which was built two yeas ago, was dangerous.
“Cars come to the traffic circle, are forced to slow down, and get pelted with rocks and firebombs, which then requires large numbers of military forces,” he added.
“It’s important to note that this traffic circle was built with the help and funding of the European Union. I again ask that the government of Israel immediately close these dangerous places to traffic. It is unacceptable that soldiers and citizens are killed and wounded because of allowances for our enemies’ comfort.”
Since the wave of violence began on October 1, Palestinian assailants have killed 11 Israelis and wounded close to 100 people in more than 50 attacks.
At least 56 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security, of which some 39 were assailants armed mainly with knives, while others were shot during violent anti-Israel protests. Many were teenagers. Of those Palestinians killed, 24 have been from Hebron.
In the past week the cabinet had decided to delay the handover of the Palestinian bodies to the families to avoid mass funerals, which it believes further incite violence against Israelis.
However, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon can amend that decision.
Over the weekend, Israel returned five bodies and another four on Sunday. It is unclear how many corpses the government is holding.
The Israeli handovers, which raised hackles among some in the government, were acknowledged as a reversal of policy on Sunday by Ya’alon.
Briefing reporters, Ya’alon said the security cabinet initially had intended to withhold the bodies but reassessed given the resentment it stirred among Palestinians, many of whom question whether the dead had posed a lethal threat to Israelis.
“Where there is a commitment to quiet, modest funerals, we will continue to return [bodies]. Where there is not, we will not return them, even if that means us burying them here,” Ya’alon said.
“They proposed this to us and we totally rejected it, informing the Israeli side that it was the right of the Palestinian people to dignify their martyrs as they wish,” PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh told Reuters.
“They [alleged assailants] were killed by Israeli aggression. Most were killed for allegedly holding knives, though investigations showed the opposite,” he said.
He did not elaborate on the investigations he was referring to.
Mass funerals were held for the dead assailants on Saturday and Sunday.Reuters contributed to this report.