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palestinians and israelis

Two Palestinian attackers have been shot dead by Israeli forces after attempting to stab them at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, the military says.

The incident was reported at the Bekaot checkpoint in the northern West Bank. The soldiers were not injured.

The two men, aged 23 and 38, were reported to be from villages south of Jenin.

Tension between Palestinians and Israelis has risen in recent months with a series of violent incidents.

Those killed has been named by the Palestinian Wafa news agency as Ali Muhammad Aqqab Abu-Maryam and Said Judah Abu-al-Wafa. They had been shot “in cold blood”, according to the news agency.

The Israel Defense Forces said the soldiers had “thwarted the attack and shot the assailants”.

Relations between Israelis and Palestinians remain tense amid a wave of attacks on Israelis by Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs which have killed 22 Israelis since the beginning of October.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

During that time 149 Palestinians – more than half said by Israel to be attackers – have been shot dead by security forces or their victims. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Overnight, Israeli forces demolished a home in the West Bank belonging to relatives of a Palestinian – Muhannad Halabi – shot dead in October after killing a rabbi in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israel says home demolitions, which have come under international criticism, are a way of discouraging Palestinian attacks.

On January 8, an Israeli Arab wanted for shooting dead three people in Tel Aviv on January 1st was killed by security forces in northern Israel.

Nashat Melhem was followed to a mosque in his home town of Arara and died in a gun battle, police said.

Police said Nashat Melhem, 29, was the gunman who killed two Israelis at a bar, then the Israeli Arab driver of a taxi who picked him up after the attack.

Nashat Melhem’s father, Mohammed, had identified his son as the suspect and reported him to the police. Mohammed Melhem and several relatives have been arrested in connection with the case.

Police have not yet established a motive for the Tel Aviv killings.

A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement has come into effect.

Under the deal, Israel has agreed to end all hostilities and targeted killings, while Hamas will stop attacks against Israel and along the border.

At least 157 people have died since the flare-up of violence began last week.

Both sides continued to fire on each other as the 21:00 ceasefire deadline approached, but no incidents have been reported since.

Earlier, a bomb exploded on a bus in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, leaving three people needing surgery.

Wednesday also saw at least 13 people die in Gaza.

Israel has agreed to “stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip, land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”, the ceasefire deal says.

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border,” it stipulates.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr announced the ceasefire at a news conference in Cairo with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who joined negotiations on Wednesday.

A statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had agreed to a US suggestion “to give a chance to Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire and so give an opportunity to stabilize the situation and calm it before there will be need to apply greater force”.

For the truce to hold, Hillary Clinton said, “the rocket attacks [from Gaza] must end and a broader calm must return”.

“Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike,” she added.

US President Barack Obama praised the Israeli leader for accepting the deal and said he would seek additional funding for the Iron Dome missile defence system, which destroyed dozens of rockets from Gaza in mid-air during the past week.

Barack Obama also thanked Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi for his efforts.

Ties between Hamas and Egypt have strengthened since Mohammed Mursi was elected earlier this year. Hamas was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mohammed Mursi belongs.

Also on Wednesday, Palestinian militants fired more rockets at Israel, while Israel renewed its naval artillery bombardment of Gaza.

Israel launched its current offensive a week ago with the killing of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari.

The Israeli government says his assassination, and the subsequent offensive, were aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza.

More than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis have since been killed.

Israeli officials described Wednesday’s bus explosion as a “terrorist attack”. Hamas praised it but has not said it was behind the blast.

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