JERUSALEM – An unknown gunman shot an Israeli soldier to death Sunday in the biblical city of Hebron on the West Bank, and troops are searching for the shooter, the military said.
The incident was the second time a soldier has been killed since the previous weekend, when a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier with the intention of trading the body for his brother, who is jailed in connection with gunfire attacks.
The killings have deepened distrust between Israel and the Palestinians at a time of U.S. mediated peace talks that restarted this summer.
Sgt. Gabriel Koby, 20, was critically wounded by direct fire while securing an area in the evening where more than a thousand people were visiting for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the military said.
Koby was evacuated to a hospital, where he died of his wounds, according to the military.
Tensions run high in Hebron, where about 500 Israelis live amid 170,000 Palestinians. Much of the animosity is over a holy site, sacred to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. The military said it had restricted movement in the area while searches are under way for the gunman.
Israeli media reported that the soldier had been shot in the neck by a sniper from a distance, but the military would not go into detail.
The latest deaths cast another shadow on U.S. mediated peace efforts as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are holding rounds of talks again after a hiatus of nearly five years. Talks collapsed in 2008, and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry spent months early this year persuading the sides to get talks back on track again. Israel has made its security concerns a top priority in talks.
In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian border official said earlier that Israel is letting construction materials into the Palestinian territory for the first time in six years, allowing them to be used by private builders.
Israel barred entry of construction materials into Gaza when Hamas overran the territory in 2007, fearing that militants could use them to build weapons and fortifications. It has allowed them in for projects funded by international organizations such as the United Nations since 2010.