JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying a group of Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, wounding five soldiers, one of them seriously, as well as the civilian bus driver, the Israeli military said.
The Israeli military said three attackers traveling in a pickup bus carried out the attack. It said they passed the bus, threw explosives at it and then blocked it before opening fire with automatic weapons. Soldiers on board then returned fire, the military said.
The pickup truck fled but then burst into flames. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, said two of the attackers were captured and taken to an Israeli hospital with serious burns. The third attacker remains on the run. The cause of the fire was unclear, though Hecht said it might have been a result of the flammable materials the attackers were carrying.
Hecht said the incident was “quite irregular,” both in its brazenness and because it took place in the Jordan Valley, a normally quiet part of the West Bank.
He said that although the bus was carrying new recruits, it was a civilian vehicle and it was not clear whether the attackers were aware there were soldiers onboard.
Two of the attackers were from the West Bank town of Jenin — where Israeli troops have been carrying out nightly arrest raids in recent months — while the third appeared to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Hecht said.
The attack took place on Route 90, the main north-south highway running through the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The road is dotted with Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages and towns.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built dozens of settlements in the territory. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, who seek the territory as the heartland of a future state.