Israel says arrests Palestinian suspect in deadly shootings

Israel:Israeli forces arrested overnight a Palestinian accused of shooting dead two soldiers in the occupied West Bank last month and involvement in another attack that caused a baby’s death, authorities said Tuesday.

Assam Barghouti is accused of shooting the soldiers at a bus stop near the Givat Assaf settlement in the Ramallah area on December 13, police said.

At least two other people — including another soldier — were wounded, the army said at the time.

Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, also accused him of involvement along with his brother in another shooting attack nearby, close to the Ofra settlement, that caused the death of a baby and wounded seven.

In the December 9 shooting, a pregnant woman was seriously wounded and her baby was born prematurely by emergency caesarean and later died.

Barghouti’s brother, Salah, 29, was killed during an arrest raid on December 12.

The armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, had claimed Salah Barghouti as one of its “fighters.”

In a statement following Assam Barghouti’s arrest, Hamas praised him and the Palestinian “resistance” without claiming him as a member.

It said Israel will not “weaken or stop the resistance.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter saluted the arrest of a “vile terrorist”.

The attacks boosted tensions and led to Israeli raids in parts of the West Bank, including in Ramallah, where Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has his base, triggering Palestinian protests and clashes with Israeli security forces.

Jewish settlers and their right-wing supporters had held angry demonstrations over the December attacks.

Assaf Barghouti was arrested at the home of an alleged accomplice in the West Bank village of Abu Shukheidim near Ramallah and was allegedly preparing more attacks, the Shin Bet said.

An AK-47 rifle, night-vision equipment and ammunition were seized during his arrest, according to the Shin Bet.

Villagers said Israeli forces began arriving at 2:30 am (0030 GMT) and surrounded the five-storey building. The apartment is located on the third floor.

Barghouti was arrested around an hour later, residents said. No gunfire was heard.

On Monday evening, Israeli soldiers also carried out a series of raids in Ramallah, closing off a number of buildings and seizing surveillance cameras, an AFP journalist said.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said at least nine Palestinians were arrested during the raids. Low-level clashes broke out in multiple locations.

It was not clear if the Ramallah raids were related to Barghouti’s arrest.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank in tense proximity to around 2.6 million Palestinians.