Palestinian trucker kills Israeli soldier in ramming, is shot dead

By Ammar Awad

NILIN, West Bank (Reuters) -A Palestinian truck driver killed an Israeli soldier in a ramming attack near a checkpoint on the boundary with the occupied West Bank on Thursday, and was shot dead during an ensuing pursuit, Israeli military and medical officials said.

The incident came hours after Palestinians wounded four Israeli soldiers in a roadside bombing in the West Bank, which has seen spiralling violence in recent months amid an almost decade-long deadlock in U.S.-sponsored peacemaking efforts.

The truck driver, a 41-year-old Palestinian with a permit to work in Israel, ran down a group of off-duty soldiers on the Israeli side of Maccabim checkpoint, killing one and injuring three others along with a roadside vendor, the military said.

Security forces pursued the driver into the West Bank, shooting him near the Palestinian village of Nilin, Israeli police said.

The Islamist militant group Hamas, which has stepped up attacks in the West Bank in a challenge to Israel and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority (PA), lauded the attack but stopped short of taking credit for it.

The West Bank is among areas where Palestinians seek statehood, a prospect ruled out by Israel's rightist government, which promotes Jewish settlement of the territory. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are split between the PA and Iranian-backed factions like Hamas that reject coexistence with Israel.

Overnight, the Islamic Jihad faction said it set off a roadside bomb against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Nablus. The military said four soldiers were wounded as they secured Jewish pilgrims visiting the biblical Joseph's Tomb.

Medics said around 30 Palestinians were injured, one by live fire, another by a rubber bullet and the rest from tear gas used by Israeli forces in Nablus.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)