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Friday 14 December 2018

Teenager killed in students hunt

Israeli soldiers search a house looking for three missing Israeli teenagers feared to have been abducted (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Israeli soldiers search a house looking for three missing Israeli teenagers feared to have been abducted (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Israeli soldiers have killed a Palestinian youth during further clashes as a search for three Israeli teenagers feared abducted in the West Bank entered its second week.

A number of other Palestinians were wounded by army gunfire during raids in four towns and refugee camps.

Two Palestinians have now been shot dead by troops since search operations started last week.

The Israeli military said it detained 25 suspects and searched about 200 locations today. The army said it searched nine institutions linked to Hamas and confiscated materials.

In one raid, in the town of Dura near Hebron, Palestinian youths threw stones at soldiers, drawing army fire. A hospital official said 13-year-old Mohammed Dodeen was killed by a bullet in the chest.

The army also opened fire during a raid in the Qalandiya refugee camp, where three Palestinians were seriously wounded, said Ahmed Bitawi, director of Ramallah's hospital.

The three Jewish seminary students disappeared on June 12 while hitch-hiking in the West Bank. Israel has blamed Islamic militant group Hamas for the apparent abduction, but has offered no proof.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used the search to promote two other objectives - a new crackdown on Hamas and an attempt to discredit the Palestinian unity government formed earlier this month by Western-backed president Mahmoud Abbas, which is supported by Hamas.

Hamas has praised the abduction of the teenagers but has not claimed responsibility for it. The group has abducted Israelis in the past to press for the release of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

In Hebron, families of Palestinians arrested recently in Israeli raids protested after weekly Muslim prayers. They gestured with three fingers, one for each missing teenager, in a sign of their support for the abduction.

The gesture has become popular on social media among Palestinians and others who support the abductions of the teens.

Over the past week, thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested more than 300 Palestinians, many from Hamas.

The army confirmed soldiers used live fire, saying they were responding to life-threatening situations, and added that the troops engaged in sporadic confrontations during today's raids.

Palestinians threw homemade explosives, firebombs, fireworks and stones, the military said. In Qalandiya, a soldier was slightly hurt by a grenade thrown at troops, it said.

A senior Israeli intelligence officer said anyone linked to Hamas was potentially a target for arrest.

He acknowledged that despite recent government declarations of a major crackdown on Hamas, both Israel and Abbas's Palestinian Authority have already dismantled much of the movement's West Bank infrastructure in recent years.

"But there are a lot of small places that are supporting Hamas. We'll go to every place that has a sign of Hamas on it, and we're going to hit it. Whether it's small or large. We really don't look only for the big symbols. There are no big symbols ... the Palestinian Authority did it (the crackdown) before and we did it."

One of the locations targeted yesterday was the office of the Islamic student union at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University.

A military spokesman said Hamas paraphernalia was confiscated as well as computers and databases which are being searched.

Hamas activists said they used the office to store materials for protests, such as flags and posters commemorating killed militants.

The Palestinian Health Ministry initially reported that Mustafa Aslan, one of those seriously wounded in Qalandiya, had died of his injuries, but his family, the ministry and Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital later said he remained in critical condition.

Press Association

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