x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Palestinian youths shot dead in West Bank clashes

Israeli troops have shot dead two Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank, medical officials said overnight, as confrontations entered a third day following the death of a prisoner in an Israeli jail.

RAMALLAH // Israeli troops have shot dead two Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank, medical officials said overnight, as confrontations entered a third day following the death of a prisoner in an Israeli jail.

The Israeli army said troops fired on Palestinians who threw fire bombs after dark yesterday at a guard post near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank. One body was swiftly recovered and a second was found in the early hours this morning.

Palestinian officials named the dead men as Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18. The army said it was investigating the incident, which left at least one other Palestinian wounded.

Tensions have risen rapidly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the death from cancer on Tuesday of Maysara Abu Hamdeya, 64, who was serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail.

Palestinians accuse Israel of withholding care from the man and failing to release him after diagnosing that his illness was terminal. Israel says it followed normal procedures.

Abu Hamdeya, who was serving a life term for a planned attack on a Jerusalem cafe in 2002, is due to be buried in Hebron later on Thursday and the army is braced for fresh violence. The funerals of Nassar and Belbisi are also expected later in the day.

The upsurge in violence comes just days before US secretary of state John Kerry is scheduled to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah in hope of seeing progress towards reviving peace negotiations that broke down in 2010.

Israeli defence official Amos Gilad dismissed suggestions that a third popular uprising, or Intifada, was breaking out in the West Bank — territory Israel seized in the 1967 war and which is now home to more than 340,000 Jewish settlers.

"The term Third Intifada is meant to describe a general breakdown and uprising ... There are no powers there pushing for a third Intifada or general uprising," Mr Gilad told Israel Radio.

Israeli jets on Tuesday carried out their first air raid on the Gaza Strip since a truce ended several days of fighting in November.

The military said it was responding to rockets fired earlier that day by an Al Qaeda-linked group, Magles Shoura Al-Mujahadeen. The group fired two more rockets yesterday and said it was responding to the death of Abu Hamdeya.

Another rocket hit an open area in southern Israel today, causing no casualties. No Gaza militant group claimed responsibility for the latest launch.

Israeli officials pressed Gaza's ruling Islamist movement, Hamas, to rein in the rocket-firing militants after the most serious outbreak of cross-border hostilities since the ceasefire that ended the eight-day war in November.