Wednesday 23 October 2019

Israeli army kills Palestinian in West Bank clashes

Israeli forces arrested dozens of Hamas activists in the West Bank as the army intensified a crackdown.

Palestinian protester (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian protester (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

By Mohammed Daraghmeh and Isabel Debre, Associated Press

Israel has arrested dozens of Hamas activists in the West Bank, and a Palestinian was killed in clashes with troops, as the Israeli military pressed ahead with a crackdown after a pair of deadly shootings blamed on Hamas militants.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Mahmoud Nakhla, 18, was shot in the abdomen and died at a medical centre in Ramallah as Israeli soldiers clashed with dozens of Palestinians throwing rocks.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli forces arrested dozens of Hamas activists in the West Bank as the army intensified a crackdown a day after Palestinian assailants killed two soldiers in an attack on a bus stop.

Palestinian protesters in the West Bank (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

In a fresh wave of violence, an Israeli soldier was severely wounded by a Palestinian assailant who attacked him with a rock, while Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinian demonstrators outside Ramallah, the military said.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Jewish settlers beat up a Palestinian bus driver, the man’s family said, while Palestinian Authority forces violently broke up a demonstration by supporters of the rival Hamas movement.

The unrest came a day after a Palestinian gunman opened fire at a West Bank bus stop, killing two soldiers before speeding away in a vehicle.

Israeli soldiers at the scene of the bus stop attack (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Israel responded by setting up checkpoints, closing roads and beefing up security in a broad manhunt for the assailant.

Earlier in the week, another Palestinian gunman carried out a similar drive-by shooting outside a nearby settlement, wounding seven people, including a pregnant woman whose baby later died after being delivered prematurely.

A Hamas official said 100 members of the group, including legislators and other senior figures, were arrested this week, including 70 arrested overnight and throughout the day on Friday. The Israeli military confirmed the overnight arrests.

As Israel was burying the soldiers killed in Thursday’s shooting, another soldier was severely wounded near a West Bank settlement after a Palestinian struck him on the head with a rock, knocking him unconscious, the military said.

The army said it appeared the soldier was also stabbed, and Israeli forces were searching for the suspect.

A Palestinian protester faces Israeli troops near Ramallah (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Elsewhere in the West Bank, a group of Israelis beat up a Palestinian bus driver, Nidal Sake, near a West Bank settlement late on Thursday, Israeli police said.

Thaer Sake, the bus driver’s brother, said a group of Jewish teenagers blocked the bus with their car and forced themselves on board, striking the driver several times before fleeing.

He said his brother remained in hospital with severe bruises and a broken eye socket. Police said they were investigating and trying to find the perpetrators.

On Friday afternoon, street clashes erupted between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces outside Ramallah, with protesters slinging rocks and Israeli soldiers responding with tear gas and stun grenades to break up the crowd.

The Palestinian Healthy Ministry said two protesters were wounded by bullets, one critically.

The tensions also spilled over into internal Palestinian fighting in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron, where 50 activists waving Hamas flags in celebration of the militant group’s 31st anniversary confronted Palestinian Authority forces and blocked traffic following noon prayers.

An Associated Press cameraman saw Palestinian police harshly beat Hamas activists with clubs, injuring five and arresting 15.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas are fierce rivals. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Mr Abbas’s forces in 2007 after winning legislative elections the previous year, and attempts to reconcile have repeatedly failed.

Friday’s unrest capped a deadly week that claimed seven lives, including the Israeli baby, a 60-year-old Palestinian businessman and three Palestinian assailants, two of them members of Hamas.

The latest shootings prompted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to boost troop levels in the West Bank, order detentions of Hamas activists and call for the demolition of the homes of assailants within 48 hours.

Amid the manhunt, Israeli forces encircled Ramallah, the Palestinians’ usually quiet centre of government and commerce. To prevent what it called “copycat attacks”, the army set up checkpoints, searched cars and blocked roads in an unusual show of force that reflected the severity with which Israel views the shootings.

“Our guiding principle is that whoever attacks us and whoever tries to attack us will pay with his life,” Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday.

Mr Abbas, meanwhile, accused Israel of creating a “climate” of violence by conducting frequent military raids in Palestinian cities. He also accused Israel of incitement against him.

PA Media

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