Israeli troops used live fire to disperse protesters in the West Bank on Friday amid rising tensions following a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in recent days.
An 18-year-old Palestinian named Mahmoud Rabah Nakhleh died after he was shot in the abdomen during clashes north of Ramallah, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
A 13-year-old Palestinian was shot in the lower leg while using a slingshot in a stand-off with Israeli settlers near the Beit El settlement outside Ramallah, CNN eyewitnesses reported.
The Israeli army confirmed to CNN that it had used what it called riot dispersal means at the site, which included live fire.
Earlier, less than a kilometer away, an Israeli soldier was injured after he was struck by a rock and stabbed, the Israeli army said. His condition was described as moderately to severely wounded. The assailant was also injured in the ensuing struggle.
Officials had been braced for widespread protests after Israel’s army carried out raids overnight Friday in Ramallah. But overall levels of violence remained relatively low, and calls by Palestinian political factions to escalate confrontations with Israeli forces appear to have gone unheeded.
Forty people were arrested overnight in Ramallah on suspicion of “involvement in terror activities, popular terror and violent riots targeting civilians and security forces,” Israel’s army said. The army added that 37 of the detainees belonged to the Hamas militant group, which has threatened further attacks on Israeli soldiers.
Two Israeli soldiers were shot dead Thursday at a bus stop on a main road in the Israeli-controlled part of the West Bank, the Israeli military said. A third soldier and a fourth person were wounded in the incident.
Thursday’s shooting took place less than two kilometers away from the site of an attack in Ofra settlement on Sunday which wounded seven, including a pregnant woman whose baby was delivered prematurely but died three days later.
Hamas had praised Thursday’s fatal attack on Israeli soldiers and claimed responsibility for Sunday’s Ofra settlement shooting.
Scattered clashes on Friday
At one checkpoint east of Ramallah, the site of serious clashes in recent days, a CNN team saw around two dozen Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and setting tires alight on Friday, and Israeli soldiers firing tear gas canisters.
Elsewhere CNN saw evidence of an increased Israeli military presence in the West Bank, with more checkpoints in operation and road closures. CNN also saw an increased security presence at bus stops, which have been the site of two shooting attacks in recent months.
A video being widely shared by Palestinians on social media appears to show Hamas supporters, many of them women, being violently confronted by Palestinian Authority security officers during a Friday demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron. In the West Bank, Hamas’s influence is checked by the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israeli forces.
The video shows at least one man being dragged from a car and beaten by PA security officers in riot gear. It’s unclear what led to the incident. The Palestinian Authority has not responded to CNN’s calls for comment.
Netanyahu retaliates by legalizing settlements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the deaths of the Israeli soldiers Thursday by announcing plans to legalize thousands of homes built illegally by settlers in the West Bank, in an attempt to placate right-wing groups angered by the attacks.
He said the West Bank homes had been “built in good faith,” and that legalization would enable “thousands of residents to have public, educational and religious structures, the construction of which has not been possible for decades.”
Around 1,000 Israelis joined a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence on Thursday, according to Israeli media, hours after the shooting of the Israeli soldiers. Demonstrators called on the Prime Minister to resign for failing to clamp down on the violence. Some held placards showing the face of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the crosshairs of a gun.
Netanyahu is also advancing the construction of two new industrial zones in the West Bank, and has asked the attorney general to make legal arrangements for the building of 80 new residential units in Ofra settlement.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, which classifies the area as occupied territory. Israel disputes the assessment, arguing that the status of the territories is more ambiguous than international law allows. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967.