JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed settlers to return to a Jewish house in Hebron in response to the fatal shooting of an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city by a Palestinian sniper.
The Machpelah house, near the Cave of the Patriarchs, was evacuated last year by the Israel Defense Forces. The shooting took place Sunday at a West Bank checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs, a holy site also known as the Machpelah.
In a statement Monday, Netanyahu said that “those who try to uproot us from the City of the Patriarchs will achieve the opposite. We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists on the one hand and strengthen settlement with the other.”
A West Bank military court ruled in April that Jewish settlers had legally purchased the home.
The U.S. State Department condemned the Hebron shooting, as well as the killing of another Israeli soldier last week, saying in a statement that “such violence and terror are unacceptable, and undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiations.”
Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, chairwoman of the Labor Party, wrote on Facebook that Netanyahu “should not capitulate to terror and should continue in the negotiations toward a diplomatic agreement” with the Palestinians.
On Sunday, government ministers Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Katz expressed fierce criticism of the plan to release a second round of terrorists as part of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
“This lethal attack illustrates the complex security challenges the IDF faces on a daily basis in Judea and Samaria,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. “The IDF will employ the necessary means, operational and intelligence, to apprehend those responsible for this deathly attack.”
The shooter remained at large on Monday.
Following the shooting, the army evacuated some 11,000 visitors from Hebron who were participating in tours and programming for the intermediate days of Sukkot, and worshipers were ejected from the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The soldier was hit in the neck by a bullet and rushed to a Jerusalem hospital, where he died. His name was not made public pending notification of his family.
Israeli troops and Palestinian residents of Hebron clashed following the shooting, according to the Times of Israel. Haaretz reported that the clashes began before the shooting.