Two Palestinians were killed in separate encounters with Israeli security forces in the West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions rise sharply in what has been the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2006.
A 15-year-old Palestinian died early Wednesday following an Israeli raid into the northern city of Nablus, Palestinian health officials reported, as the army accompanied right-wing Israeli lawmakers to a flash point shrine. The army said it was protecting worshippers and fired on a suspect who had planted an explosive device, which detonated.
Palestinian health officials said Mahdi Hashash was killed by Israeli fire. Pictures from the hospital showed his body was also shredded by shrapnel from the blast.
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces fatally shot a 29-year-old Palestinian man in Anin, west of the city of Jenin, Palestinian health officials said. The Israeli army said soldiers spotted him “vandalizing” the separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank and opened fire to make him stop. The army said soldiers provided medical treatment at the scene. The Palestinian Red Crescent evacuated him to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Israel has repeatedly come under criticism for its use of excessive force against unarmed Palestinians.
The recent wave of violence in the West Bank has concentrated on the cities of Nablus and Jenin. In Nablus, residents said the army stormed the city early Wednesday — setting up checkpoints and stationing snipers on rooftops. They said Palestinians set tires alight and protested the army’s incursion with stones and gunfire. A branch of the militant group Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade identified Hashash, the teenager who was killed, as a member.
The army said it was in Nablus to escort Jewish worshippers to the site known as the biblical Joseph’s Tomb, as security forces do several times a year in coordination with Palestinian security forces.
Footage showed right-wing Israeli lawmakers, mostly allies and members of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party that prevailed in last week’s general election, participating in an event at the derelict shrine on the outskirts of the Palestinian city.
An Israeli drone was downed during the clashes, the army said, without elaborating. The army also said it arrested a dozen Palestinians across the West Bank, the latest of near-nightly arrest raids that have fueled unrest in the occupied territory after a wave of Palestinian attacks killed 19 Israelis last spring.
Intensified Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has also killed some 130 Palestinians this year, making it the deadliest since 2006, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Israel says the raids are needed to dismantle militant networks at a time when Palestinian security forces are unable or unwilling to do so.
The Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces and are aimed at cementing Israel’s open-ended 55-year-old occupation of lands they want for their hoped-for state. Hundreds of Palestinians have been rounded up in such raids, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
The violence has continued against the backdrop of an Israeli election that saw Netanyahu emerge victorious last week with the support of an ultranationalist, far-right party that says it hopes to end Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank.