Hebron on 'lockdown' as Israeli forces respond to attacks
Israeli forces locked down the occupied West Bank's most populous city Hebron and surrounding villages on Saturday after two Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks nearby.
Troops blocked all but one exit road from the city, an AFP correspondent reported, after the army dispatched two additional battalions to the area on Friday.
An Israeli military spokesman said the closure was "intended to break the chain of lethal attacks" in recent months.
"The physical presence will also disrupt, prevent and foil additional attacks, inspired by the attackers of the last 48 hours," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP.
The measures were described as the "most substantial steps on the ground" since 2014, when Israel conducted a huge search operation for three missing hitchhikers that were later found dead in the West Bank.
It follows a flare-up in nine months of deadly violence between the embattled parties as major diplomatic players called for urgent steps to revive the peace process.
On Friday, the Middle East diplomatic quartet called on Palestinians to "renounce violence" while demanding Israel halts its expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, in a report that it hopes will serve as a "wake up call" for the two embattled parties.
Israeli settlement building and confiscation of land in the West Bank were among factors "steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution," said the group, which includes the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
"Endless occupation is a recipe for disaster" that will lead to a "perpetual lack of security and violence," quartet coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov told AFP.
Mladenov also blamed violence and incitement, settlements and the Palestinian Authority's lack of control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as severly undermining hopes of a peace deal.
At least 214 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have been killed in violence that has flared since October 2015 with Israeli forces being accused of using excessive force in some cases.
Most of the Palestinians were allegedly carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were killed in clashes with security forces or by Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians say the rise in knife attacks on Israeli soldiers is rooted in frustration stemming from nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation.
Hebron – a city with several hundred Israeli settlers – has been one of the main focuses of the wave of deadly unrest that has rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories since last October.