1 of 5 | Cars were burned in a revenge attack after two Israeli brothers were killed Sunday by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 27 (UPI) -- An Israel soldier and his younger brother were killed Sunday evening when a man opened fire in the occupied West Bank, sparking Israeli settlers to unleash retaliatory attacks against Palestinians.
The two Israelis were killed in a shooting in the northern West Bank town of Huwara amid worsening relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Israel Defense Force identified the slain Israelis as soldier Hillel Menachem Yaniv and his younger brother, Yagel Yaakov Yaniv.
"The IDF expresses its heartfelt condolences to their family," it tweeted.
Emergency crews were dispatched at 1:41 p.m. Sunday to a highway near Huwara, where two people were found seriously wounded, a spokesperson with Magen David Adom said.
The IDF said in a statement that they had been shot at the Einbus intersection near where the Shomron Brigade was stationed by a gunman who had arrived at the scene by car and opened fire on the Israeli vehicle.
Authorities were still searching for the suspect early Monday, and no group had taken responsibility for the attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night the gunman was being sought and would be brought to justice.
"We will apprehend him and we will settle accounts with him," he said in a video message.
The IDF said it was bolstering security checks in the nearby Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus, where two additional battalions were also being deployed.
Near Nablus in the village of Za'tara, a Palestinian was fatally shot, allegedly by an Israeli settler, as villages and towns in the area came under retaliatory attacks, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement.
Officials said hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the attacks that included the setting of fires to dozens of homes, vehicles and structures.
Some 300 suffered injuries from smoke and tear gas inhalation and at least one person was seriously injured with a fractured skull caused by a thrown rock.
The attacks occurred after Netanyahu called on Israelis to resist the urge to seek revenge.
"I ask -- even when the blood is boiling -- not to take the law into one's hands," he said in his video message. "I ask that the IDF and the security forces be allowed to carry out their work.
"I remind you that in recent weeks, they have targeted dozens of terrorists and thwarted dozens of attacks. Let the IDF complete its pursuit and do not take the law into your hands; together, we will defeat terrorism."
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted a brief statement, saying the Israeli government "holds full and direct responsibility for the #terrorism of settlers and the #occupation army against #Palestinian citizens."
The attacks occurred amid the further fraying of already relations between the two sides.
The newly inaugurated far-right government has proceeded with a terrorism crackdown in the occupied West Bank, resulting in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. It has also demolished or confiscated dozens of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Earlier this month, Israel also announced the authorization of nine new West Bank settlements and plans to build some 100 new settlement homes in response to recent terrorist attacks targeting Israelis.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli lawmakers passed legislation permitting the death penalty for terrorists, attracting condemnation from Palestinian officials who accused them of pursuing "racial terror and open war" against Palestinians.
In a statement, the State of Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Israel's re-enactment of the death penalty "a pretext to legitimize its annexation and entrench its apartheid region."
Israel has come under criticism from human rights groups and the international community for its actions as its occupation of Palestinian territory is widely viewed as unlawful under international law.
Prior to the attack on Tuesday and before the announcement that Israel would resume its death penalty practice, Israel and Palestine agreed in Aqaba, Jordan, to work at de-escalating tensions.
Officials from Jordan, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States were present for the joint communique that includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for the next four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.
Yair Lapid, the Israeli opposition leader, laid blame for the retaliatory attacks on pro-settler Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, stating his "militias set out to burn Huwara in order to torpedo the summit in Aqaba of Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant."
"This government is dangerous to Israel's security," he tweeted.
Smotrich, in a statement addressed to settlers, said they were working to find an answer to terrorism while calling on them to refrain from violence.
"We must not take the law into our hands and create a dangerous anarchy that could get out of control and cost human lives," he said. "Let us as a political echelon formulate the answer and let the IDF win in Israel."
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price late Sunday condemned both the terrorist attack that killed the Israeli brothers and the settlement violence on Palestinians.
"These developments underscore the imperative to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds," he said in a statement. "The United States will continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians and our regional partners toward restoring calm."