Two sisters who were killed in a shooting in the occupied West Bank today were British nationals.

The women, aged in their 20s, were attacked in a car with their 45-year-old mother on Friday, who was also seriously injured, near the Hamra settlement 30 miles north of Jerusalem.

The sisters and their mother lived in the settlement of Efrat, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, Oded Revivi, the settlement’s mayor, said.

Sky News reported that the family moved to Israel around 2005.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We are saddened to hear about the deaths of two British-Israeli citizens and the serious injuries sustained by a third individual. The UK calls for all parties across the region to de-escalate tensions.”

Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, said both sides in the Israel-Palestine dispute should “recommit themselves to a negotiated settlement”.

The girls’ father was driving in a separate car behind his wife and daughters and witnessed the attack, Mr Revivi said.

Medics said they dragged the unconscious women from their smashed car, which appeared to have been pushed off the road.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and defence minister, Yoav Gallant, toured the site late Friday and vowed to catch the attacker. “It’s just a matter of time, and not much time, until we settle the score,” Mr Netanyahu said.

He also said his security cabinet had passed a series of measures overnight. “We acted in Lebanon, we acted in Gaza, we beefed up forces in the field,” he said, promising additional actions.

The shooting took place hours after Israel carried out air strikes in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli security forces remove Palestinian Muslim worshippers sitting on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, early on April 5, 2023 during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. - Israeli police said they had entered to dislodge "agitators", a move denounced as an "unprecedented crime" by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. The holy Muslim site is built on top of what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli security forces remove Palestinian Muslim worshippers from the grounds of the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty)

Military figures said they were responding to rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon, blaming Palestinian militant group Hamas.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the shooting, but Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem described it as “retaliation for the crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank and the al-Aqsa mosque”.

Jerusalem’s holy site of al-Aqsa sits on a hilltop sacred to both Muslims and Jews, making it a regular site of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The current round of violence began on Wednesday after Israeli police twice raided the al-Aqsa Mosque — in one case fiercely beating Palestinians, who responded by hurling rocks and firecrackers.

That led to rocket fire into Israel from Gaza on Thursday and, in an unusual escalation, the barrage from southern Lebanon and a subsequent Israeli retaliation.

On Friday, over 130,000 worshippers poured into the al-Aqsa compound for midday prayers, which ended without incident.

Before dawn prayers, however, chaos erupted at an entrance to the esplanade as Israeli police wielding batons descended on crowds of Palestinian worshippers as they tried to squeeze into the site.

An hour later, according to videos, people leaving the prayers staged a large protest on the limestone courtyard, raising their fists and shouting against Israel.

Israeli police forced their way into the compound, inflaming tensions during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Police said security forces entered the holy compound after prayers in response to “masked suspects” who threw rocks toward officers at one of the gates.

Israeli authorities control access to the area but the compound is administered by Islamic and Jordanian officials.

The unrest comes at a delicate time for Jerusalem’s Old City, which was teeming with pilgrims from around the world.

The Christian faithful retraced the route Jesus is said to have taken for Good Friday, Jews celebrated the weeklong Passover holiday, and Muslims prayed and fasted for Ramadan.

Speaking earlier on Friday, Mr Cleverly said: “The UK condemns the indiscriminate rocket attacks from southern Lebanon and Gaza and recognises Israel’s right to self-defence.

“Now is the time for all parties across the region to de-escalate tensions. At the convergence of Passover, Ramadan and Easter, the UK calls for all parties to respect the historic status quo arrangements at Jerusalem’s holy sites and cease all provocative action.

“The UK is a strong supporter of freedom of religion or belief and calls for places of worship to be respected. We value Jordan‘s important role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and condemns the Israeli police violence at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

“When Israeli security forces conduct operations, they must ensure they are proportionate and in accordance with international law.”

Human rights group, Amnesty International UK, criticised Mr Cleverly’s response.

The charity’s Kristyan Benedict said: “James Cleverly’s belated response to shocking Israeli violence against Palestinians at al-Aqsa Mosque isn’t just weak and tokenistic – it’s also dangerously misguided because it effectively isolates individual incidents of violence from the overall context, which is decades of apartheid, occupation and systematic injustice against the Palestinian people.

“Despite the Foreign Secretary’s usual platitudes about ‘peace’ and ‘de-escalation’, the UK continues to oppose vital international measures such as the ongoing ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation, designed to bring justice and accountability for Israeli and Palestinian civilians.”

Additional reporting by AP

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