Israeli soldiers shot dead a wanted Palestinian man near the West Bank village of Bil'in on Monday after he fired shots at soldiers near the village.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the soldiers were pursuing a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The man was chased into a cave in an "open field" and was shot dead during the ensuing gun battle, according to Army Radio. A second man was arrested, according to Israeli reports.
The Palestinian Ma'an News Agency named the man who was shot dead as Mohamed Assi, 24, and reported that he was a member of the Islamic Jihad.
A Kafr Ni'ma resident told Ma'an that IDF troops chased Assi into an olive grove, where clashes erupted. The gun battle that ensued continued until dawn, according to witnesses.
The incident follows a recent wave of violent events in the West Bank, including two separate terrorist attacks that killed two soldiers, an attack against a 9-year-old girl in Psagot, and the bloody murder of a former IDF colonel in a Jordan Valley settlement.
"Overnight, an important operation was carried out, in which a wanted [Palestinian] was killed. He was responsible for a terror attack in Tel Aviv in the last year, in which 29 Israelis were injured on a bus near the Kirya IDF headquarters," Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon told reporters while touring Hebron on Tuesday.
"He hid in a cave in the region between Bil'in and Kafr Ni'ma. This was an important operation, positive, involving the Shin Bet security agency and other intelligence bodies -- the IDF, the Israel Police, the Yamam counter terror unit -- it ended with the suspect dead without any casualties on our side.
"In the last month there has been a series of six terror attacks, some of which were clearly nationalist, and the rest, even if they began as criminally motivated incidents, meaning robberies, we are treating them as though they are also nationalist because of the unbearable ease with which a girl was stabbed, or a Jew was murdered when suspects were caught red-handed during the course of a robbery.
"We view this with grave severity, and it may be the atmosphere, the incitement by the Palestinian Authority, the recent religious events or any other reason that has brought about the recent wave [of violence]. It may also be that the wave itself is contagious. In any case, we are taking decisive action to combat this terror -- we have solved most of these attacks and retaliated, and those that we have not yet solved, we will of course solve in the future and target all perpetrators of terror."
Asked whether, in light of the recent increase in tensions, he thought Israel was on the verge of a third intifada, Ya'alon said, "There is no indication of a renewed popular resistance or third intifada. Regardless, we are preparing for any potential escalation, in case it happens. But as for a popular resistance, they are not talking about it, we are not seeing any motivation for it, we are not seeing any activity toward that end, and obviously we are doing everything in our power to ensure that it doesn't happen."
The defense minister also rejected the argument that the violence was linked to the diplomatic process currently underway.
One reporter raised the issue of the upcoming release of the second group of Palestinian prisoners, meant as an Israeli gesture of good will toward the Palestinians during the ongoing peace talks. Asked whether it may be wise to reconsider the release in light of the escalation in violence, Ya'alon replied that "Israel made a commitment to release prisoners, all of whom [committed their crimes] before Oslo. There are also other considerations besides the routine security concerns. As long as there is a [diplomatic] process and we are committed to it, I assume that we will release the prisoners next time as well."