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Palestinian youths shot dead in West Bank

Two teenagers killed by Israeli forces as protests over death of prisoner in custody spark violent clashes in West Bank.

Last Modified: 04 Apr 2013 08:21
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Tensions have risen rapidly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the death of Maysara Abu Hamdeya [AFP]

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

The body of Naji Balbisi, 17, a cousin of 16-year-old Amer Nassar who was also shot dead in clash at a military roadblock at Tulkarem in the north of the Palestinian territory, was discovered early on Thursday morning, officials said. 

The Israeli army said troops fired on Palestinians who threw fire bombs at a guard post in the area after dark on Wednesday, but did not confirm the teenager was killed by them.

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 said it followed normal procedures.

Abu Hamdeya was convicted for a planned attack on a Jerusalem cafe in 2002.

In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, where Abu Hamdeya is to be buried on Thursday, Israeli forces clashed with dozens of Palestinian protesters on Wednesday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at men throwing stones and petrol bombs.

Al Jazeera's correspondent Nicole Johnston, reporting from Hebron on Thursday, said that the situation in the town remained very tense. 

Rocket fire

On Wednesday, Israeli jets carried out their first air strike on the Gaza Strip since a truce ended several days of fighting in November.

"I assess that Hamas has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate."

- Richard Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process

The military said it was responding to rockets fired on Tuesday by a group inside the Gaza strip.

The group fired two more rockets on Wednesday and said it was responding to the death of Abu Hamdeya.

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

Some 4,600 Palestinian prisoners declared a hunger strike for three days in protest at Abu Hamdeya's death.

Food trays were returned untouched on Wednesday, an Israeli prisons official said.

In towns of the occupied West Bank, some shops were shut in solidarity.

'Maintain the quiet'

"I assess that Hamas has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate," he said. "Our goal is to maintain the quiet."

Commenting on the violence in Gaza, Richard Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said it was of "paramount importance to refrain from violence."

He said in a statement that renewed violations of the ceasefire threatened to unravel Egyptian-brokered understandings
that included an easing of Israel's blockade on the enclave.

Egypt mediated the November truce after fighting in which some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

Israel had launched that Gaza offensive, as it did a bigger campaign in 2008-09, with the declared aim of ending rocket fire. 

Hamas took control of Gaza Strip from western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement in 2007 after winning an election a year earlier.

The Palestinian Authority want to establish a state in the enclave along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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