British sisters killed in West Bank shooting named by Netanyahu

Two British sisters killed in West Bank shooting are named by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – as he offers ‘condolences’ to the family

  • Friday West Bank shooting left two British nationals dead and mother in hospital 
  • Violent clashes between factions escalate in wake of police raids on mosque

The two British-Israeli sisters killed yesterday in a shooting in the West Bank have been named as Rina and Maya Zakharan. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the identities of the two sisters, one of whom was 15 and the other in her 20s. 

Their mother suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital after the attack in Hamra, in the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu wrote: ‘On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I send my condolences to the Di Mafart family for the murder of the two wonderful sisters, Rina and Maya Zakharan, in the severe attack in the Bekaa.

‘In these moments, if the family is fighting for its life, and together with the entire nation of Israel, I pray for its safety, and we all send our condolences and strength to this dear family in this moment of great sorrow.’

The attack comes as violence escalates between Palestinians and Israeli forces over clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem earlier this week.

Netanyahu shared a tribute on Twitter to British-Israeli nationals Rina and Maya Zakharan

Israeli medics and police check a damaged car at the scene of a shooting, in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 7, 2023

Israeli forces gather near the Hamra junction in the northern part of the Jordan valley in the occupied West Bank following a shooting attack on April 7, 2023

It was previously reported that the family were from London and had emigrated to Efrat, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The settlement is considered illegal under international law, a source of conflict for Palestinian and Israeli factions. Israel disputes the status. 

Friends of the family yesterday held a vigil in the city of Efrat as the daughters’ mother remained in hospital.

READ MORE: ‘We will strike our enemies and they will pay’: Israel pounds Gaza and Lebanon after Netanyahu vowed ‘aggressive response’ to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants – as fresh violence breaks out at Islam holy site


The three were shot while on the road near the Hamra junction in the northern part of the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli military initially reported that the incident was caused by a collision between Israeli and Palestinian drivers.

Troops then said that they had found bullet holes in the Israeli vehicle and deemed it a deliberate attack.

Kan, an Israeli public broadcaster, said that 22 bullet casings were found.

Medics found the three victims in critical condition and were unsuccessful in saving the lives of the two younger daughters.

The sisters’ father had been driving ahead in a separate car when the women were attacked. He turned the car around to find paramedics treating his wife and daughters.

In response to the shooting, Israel Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai called on all Israelis with firearms licences to start carrying their weapons.

Israeli Major General Yehuda Fuchs said they were reinforcing in all sectors and would find those responsible.

In response to the attack, and following a separate attack later on Friday in Tel Aviv which saw a car mount the pavement and hit pedestrians, Israel has hardened its security.

The Times of Israel reported that the IDF was planning to bolster the police forces as police prepared for unrest at Al-Aqsa. 

The IDF also called up an unspecified number of air force reservists including fighter pilots and drone operators yesterday. 

Doron Turgeman, Jerusalem District Police Commander, warned in a press briefing: ‘Expect disorder and violence on the Temple Mount tonight.’

Unconfirmed reports on Saturday evening suggested a rocket had been fired from Syria into Israel, landing in the Golan Heights.

Other reports claimed three had been launched, one landing in Israel, one in Jordan and another back in Syria. 

Local media reported a Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces in Azzun on Saturday evening as tensions mounted.

Israeli soldiers are seen near the scene where a shooting attack occurred in the Jordan Valley, on April 7, 2023

Israeli medics and policemen check a damaged car at the scene of a shooting attack, in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 7, 2023

The shooting in the West Bank followed the Israeli bombing of Gaza and Tyre on Thursday night as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an ‘aggressive response’ to rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel that afternoon. 

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but an IDF spokesperson blamed Hamas, the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip.

The barrage, in turn, followed Israeli police storming the holy Al-Aqsa mosque compound with tear gas and stun grenades on Wednesday morning.

Violent scenes showed police using weapons to beat worshippers barricaded in the mosque, who retaliated by shooting fireworks and throwing stones.

The Israeli bombing of Gaza reportedly damaged a children’s hospital, further fomenting tensions ahead of the two outbursts on Friday.

After the shooting on Friday, British tourists were reportedly among the victims of a harrowing attack in Tel Aviv as a car mounted the pavement near a popular park, killing one and injuring at least seven.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed reported yesterday that in response to the attacks Israeli forces had ‘closed all entrances to Jericho with military checkpoints, and are searching all vehicles’ to find those responsible for the shooting in Hamra.

The outlet, founded by a former Israeli MP, cited local sources claiming that settlers under protection of the Israeli army were pursuing revenge attacks, ‘burning houses and farm machinery’ in Faroush and ‘beginning to mount further attacks on local residents’.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for the attack but said it was a ‘natural response to [Israel’s] ongoing crimes against the Al-Aqsa mosque and its barbaric aggression against Lebanon and the steadfast Gaza.’

In London, the Foreign Office confirmed the deaths of the two sisters and appealed for all sides in the Israel-Palestine dispute to de-escalate a situation which has seen violence flare up in recent days.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘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.’

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: ‘I am shocked by reports of the killing of two British sisters in an appalling and cowardly attack in the West Bank.

‘My thoughts are with their family and loved ones. More civilian victims of this cycle of violence show the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate.’

The shooting reflects a sudden intensification of violence between opposing regional factions. 

The IDF stressed Israeli warplanes last night targeted infrastructure belonging to Palestinian armed groups, as opposed to civilian infrastructure.

Hamas targets in the city of Tyre in the south of Lebanon were also hit in the assault.

There were no reports of serious casualties, but residents in Qalili, Lebanon, were injured in the bombardment.

The Palestinian health ministry said ‘partial damage’ was done to the Al-Dorra children’s hospital in Gaza City during the strikes.

Hecht said the IDF was aware of the allegation and was looking into it as the local UN forces urged restraint. 

Yesterday, pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Kensington, London, where the Israeli embassy is located, to protest perceived Israeli aggression.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather near the Israeli embassy in Kensington, London, Friday

Protestors gathered on Friday as violence escalates between Palestinian and Israeli factions

Violence between factions has escalated this week following clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem.

Israeli police stormed the mosque with tear gas and stun grenades to confront Palestinians barricaded inside with improvised weapons.

Muslim worshippers have been demanding the right to pray overnight inside the mosque, which authorities typically only permit during the last 10 days of the month-long Ramadan holiday.

They also stayed in the mosque in protest threats by religious Jews to carry out a ritual animal slaughter at the sacred site for Passover.

At least 14 Palestinians were injured and hundreds arrested on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning as Israeli police raided the mosque, sparking global condemnation.

Video footage dated 5 April showed police beating protestors with rifles. Other footage showed Palestinians inside the mosque shooting fireworks at the security forces.

Palestinian groups in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel on Wednesday and Thursday in response to the clashes. Israeli planes attacked multiple sites in Gaza after four missiles reached Israel.

The mosque was again stormed by Israeli forces on Thursday.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called for calm after Israel launched strikes in southern Lebanon and bombed targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation over the rocket attacks. 

Mr Cleverly said both sides in the Israel-Palestine dispute should ‘recommit themselves to a negotiated settlement’.

He 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 campaign 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.’ 

Fire and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza Strip, Friday, April 7, 2023

The Israeli military struck targets in the Gaza Strip, pushing the region toward a wider conflagration after a day of rocket fire along the country’s northern and southern borders

Rockets hit Bezet and Shlomi in the north of Israel on Thursday as regional violence worsens

Late Thursday, the IDF said it had shot down 25 of an unusually large barrage of 34 rockets fired from southern Lebanon. 

Civilians were injured in the attack. 

The IDF initially said it would investigate possible Iranian involvement amid fears the missiles may have come from Iranian proxy Hezbollah, sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Hezbollah had condemned the assault on Al-Aqsa. The two powerful military factions have avoided any major conflicts since 2006.

But Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, later said it was ‘a Palestinian-oriented event’, adding that either the Hamas or Islamic Jihad militant groups, which are based in Gaza but also operate in Lebanon, could be involved.

He tied the attacks to the spate of violence at Al-Aqsa since Wednesday. 

Hecht added that the army believed Hezbollah and the Lebanese government were aware of what happened and also held responsibility.

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati condemned the firing of rockets from Lebanon. He added that Lebanese troops and UN peacekeepers were investigating and trying to find the perpetrators. 

Netanyahu, currently in the midst of a domestic political crisis and losing popular support, firmly vowed to ‘strike our enemies’ who will ‘pay a price for every act of aggression’.

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