Israeli forces kill two Palestinians as British-Israeli buried

Israeli soldiers take aim behind a vehicle as they sweep an area during an army operation near the settlement of Elon Moreh in the occupied West Bank near Nablus on 11 April, 2023AFP

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian militants Tuesday in the West Bank, on a day mourners laid to rest a British-Israeli woman who died in an attack that also killed her two daughters.

Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged over the last week, with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Jewish Passover and Christian Easter coinciding.

"I commend the actions of the soldiers who eliminated two terrorists who opened fire on them near Elon Moreh", a Jewish settlement close to the West Bank city of Nablus, defence minister Yoav Gallant said on Twitter.

He added the troops had "prevented an attack on Israeli civilians".

In a statement, the Israeli army said "armed assailants fired shots from a vehicle at the Elon Moreh post". Soldiers returned fire "toward the vehicle and neutralised two armed assailants."

The army said it seized two M-16 rifles and a handgun.

The Palestinian ministry of health named the two men as Saud Abdullah Saud Titi and Mohammad Abu Dhiraa.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade -- the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement -- claimed the two men as members.

They were from the nearby Balata refugee camp, a statement from Fatah said.

An AFP photographer saw Israeli soldiers place a body into an ambulance at the site, as other troops inspected a white car riddled by bullets.

'Appalling attack'

The incident came as thousands of mourners gathered Tuesday at an Israeli settlement in the West Bank for the funeral of a British-Israeli woman killed in a shooting attack days earlier.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live there in Israeli-approved settlements considered illegal under international law.

Israelis holding national flags lined the roads in the rain leading to the funeral for Lucy Dee in Kfar Etzion.

The 48-year-old, also known by her Hebrew name Leah, died Monday from wounds sustained three days earlier when her car came under fire in the Jordan Valley.

Israeli soldiers sweep an area during an army operation near the settlement of Elon Moreh in the occupied West Bank near Nablus on 11 April, 2023

Two of her children, sisters aged 16 and 20, were shot dead in the attack and buried on Sunday.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, in a statement, labelled the killings "abhorrent" and added "the UK condemns this appalling attack on civilians".

He said Britain urged "all sides to de-escalate tensions in Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories, and end the deadly cycle of violence."

Ban at Al-Aqsa

The government also said it would ban Jewish visitors from entering Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa compound, starting Wednesday until the end of Ramadan.

Home to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the site is sacred in both Judaism and Islam, and is the focal point for Ramadan celebrations.

Jews, who know the site as the Temple Mount, are allowed to visit the site but not pray there.

The move follows a promise by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to restore security "on all fronts".

The latest surge in unrest began last Wednesday with an Israeli police raid on Al-Aqsa mosque, followed by rocket fire from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and a car-ramming in Tel Aviv that killed an Italian tourist.

The body of Alessandro Parini arrived back in Rome on Tuesday, after the 36-year-old was killed when a car ploughed into pedestrians on the city's seafront Friday evening.

On Monday, Palestinian mourners had gathered near Jericho city for the funeral of a 15-year-old boy, Mohammed Fayez Balhan, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during a raid in the Jordan Valley.

The army said it was working to apprehend "a terror suspect," and one person was detained during the operation.

The conflict has this year claimed the lives of at least 96 Palestinians, 19 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian, according to an AFP count based on Israeli and Palestinian official sources.

Israeli security forces stand guard at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, also known as the Temple Mount complex to Jews, in Jerusalem on 9 April, 2023

These figures include, on the Palestinian side, combatants and civilians, including minors, and on the Israeli side, mostly civilians, including minors, and three members of the Arab minority.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.