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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 January 2019

Palestinian teenager killed as Israel hunts for West Bank shooter

The 17 year old was named as Mahmoud Nakhla and isn't believed to be linked to the West Bank shooting

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead during fresh raids by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank on Friday, the health ministry said, as troops searched for a Palestinian who killed two soldiers a day earlier.

The 17 year old was named by the Palestinian Health Ministry as Mahmoud Nakhla, who authorities said died after being shot in the stomach by Israeli fire near the Jalazone refugee camp incentral West Bank.

The Israeli army did not comment on the death, which occurred as soldiers clashed with stone-throwing protesters across the occupied area.

Soldiers again entered the Al Bireh neighbourhood of the West Bank city of Ramallah where they carried out raids Thursday. Residents said they seized cameras from two buildings.

The Israeli military only ventures into Ramallah in large numbers due to the fierce response they receive from residents and instead usually rely on Palestinian security forces with whom they cooperate.

The army was searching for the perpetrator of Thursday's shooting in the West Bank, where 400,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements alongside more than 2.5 million Palestinians.

It was the third deadly attack by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank in two months and set off demonstrations by settler groups against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing government depends on their support.

Israeli media speculated on Friday about the possibility of a new Palestinian "intifada," or uprising, against Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Protests as part of a Palestinian "day of rage" Friday were, however, smaller than anticipated.

Ayman Safadi, foreign minister for Jordan, on Friday criticised "the continuation of the occupation by Israel of Palestinian territories" and the lack of any prospect for lasting peace.

The situation "constitutes a great threat to stability in the whole region," he said.

In Thursday's attack, a gunman got out of his car and opened fire on soldiers and others outside a settlement in central West Bank, killing two and seriously wounding another two Israelis before fleeing.

The funerals of the two soldiers, Sgt Yovel Moryosef and Cpl Yosef Cohen, were held on Friday.

After the attack, the army locked down Ramallah, home to secular Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and called in reinforcements.

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Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces erupted on Thursday in different parts of the West Bank, including inside Ramallah during army raids.

Settlers shouting for revenge threw stones at Palestinian vehicles, while an Arab bus driver was beaten by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Modiin Illit settlement, according to Israeli media reports.

In overnight raids, the army said it arrested 40 Palestinians, most of them affiliated with Hamas which has claimed responsibility for two recent shootings.

It has not yet claimed Thursday's attack, though Israeli officials blame the group.

The army did not say it had made arrests linked directly to the latest attack.

At a checkpoint near the Beit El settlement on Friday morning, a soldier was slightly wounded after a man hit him with a rock before fleeing, the army said.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since seizing it in the 1967 war.

Settlements are considered illegal by the international community and are seen as one of the greatest obstacles to peace, though Israel disputes this.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since seizing it from Mr Abbas's forces in 2007.

While Mr Abbas's Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, Hamas cells still operate in the territory.

Hamas claimed responsibility on Thursday for two shootings which killed three Israelis including a baby, which took place before the soldiers were shot dead.

The group's leader Ismail Haniya said on Thursday that the West Bank had "opened a new page" in the movement's conflict with Israel.

Netanyahu's coalition government, which has only a one-seat majority in parliament, relies on the support of pro-settler parties.

Right-wing protesters in Jerusalem late on Thursday booed Netanyahu, while an MP from the far-right Jewish Home party urged him to close all West Bank roads to Palestinians or have "blood on his hands".

Hugh Lovatt, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the situation was reminiscent of the build-up to the 2014 Gaza war.

"What adds further danger is that we are heading into elections in Israel in 2019, so Netanyahu will have to take a more forceful hand," Mr Lovatt told AFP.

"He has long run on his security credentials, saying he keeps Israel safe, and his only real challenge comes from the right."

Netanyahu, whose Likud bloc heads the government, on Thursday announced new measures to support settlements, but the Yediot Aharonot newspaper said he would need to respond forcefully.

"When the settler lobby raises an outcry, the Likud ministers break into a sweat," it said.

Updated: December 15, 2018 02:56 PM

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