QALANDIA REFUGEE CAMP, WEST BANK // Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians in clashes during an arrest raid in the West Bank, a Palestinian official and the Israeli military said today, in the deadliest incident in the area in years.
The violence came as Israel and the Palestinians are holding rounds of peace talks in the first such meetings in five years since serious negotiations collapsed. The early morning violence casts a cloud on another round of talks expected later in the day.
An official at a Ramallah hospital said the three died from gunshot wounds sustained in the nearby refugee camp of Qalandia. More than a dozen others were wounded, he said, speaking anonymously as he was not allowed to talk with the media.
Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian prime minister, condemned the incident. "Such a crime proves the need for an urgent and effective international protection for our people," he said in a statement.
Israeli border police spokesman Shai Hakimi said officers were on a raid to apprehend a suspect when hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets and hurled firebombs, concrete blocks and rocks at the officers.
He said officers used riot control munitions, a term that usually refers to rubber bullets and tear gas. He said police are investigating the incident.
The Israeli military said soldiers rushed to the scene after a different force came under attack. It said soldiers opened fire after they felt their lives were in "imminent danger".
"Large violent crowds such as this which significantly outnumber security forces leave no other choice but to resort to live fire in self-defence," said military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner.
Hatim Khatib, whose brother Youssef was arrested in the raid, said that undercover troops dressed in civilian clothes arrived at their home at 4.30am looking for the brother.
"After half an hour we started hearing shooting from the soldiers inside our house, and then people started throwing stones at them," he said.
Youssef was arrested after he returned from morning prayers at 7am, he said.
He said he did not know why his brother was arrested but said he had spent time in Israeli jail for throwing rocks and was released three years ago. The Israeli military would not elaborate as to why he was wanted.