Qalandiya, occupied West Bank – Two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli security forces after a gun battle in the Qalandiya refugee camp just before dawn on Monday morning.
The victims were identified as Ahmed Abu al-Eish, 28, and Laith Manasra, 21. A third was reportedly in critical condition.
Dozens more were injured, some seriously, after hundreds of Israeli soldiers and special forces raided the camp, just north of Jerusalem, at around 2am. They demolished the home of Muhammed Abu Shaheen, currently imprisoned in an Israeli jail for his alleged role in a July shooting attack that killed an Israeli settler.
The gun battle between members of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Israeli forces went on for at least an hour. Israeli sources said none of their soldiers were wounded.
Several weeks ago, an attempt by Israeli forces to demolish Abu Shaheen’s home was aborted when hundreds of Qalandiya residents turned out in protest.
We will fight the Israelis and I hope the third Intifada comes soon.
Qalandiya refugee camp resident
This time around, Israeli forces forcibly evacuated everyone inside the home, located on the third floor of an apartment complex, before destroying it.
Members of Abu Shaheen’s family, who sought shelter in a relative’s home, declined to speak to the media on Monday.
Neighbouring houses were also seriously damaged by the explosives the Israelis used to blow up Abu Shaheen’s home.
“I was on my way to work at the Jerusalem Municipality when I suddenly saw hundreds of soldiers and at least half-a-dozen jeeps surrounding the camp,” a witness, who declined to be named, told Al Jazeera.
“They pointed their guns at me and ordered me to stop. After I showed them my ID, they walked with me for a little while and then let me go.”
An Israeli drone flew over Qalandiya camp for hours, apparently monitoring the situation as hundreds of young men flooded the streets and threw stones at the soldiers who had entered from three different directions. The sounds of gunfire and exploding tear gas canisters could be heard.
Al Jazeera saw more than half-a-dozen ambulances trying to enter the camp to evacuate the wounded, but they were prevented from doing so by Israeli forces. After the Israeli soldiers had withdrawn, the ambulances streamed into the camp before rushing the injured to Ramallah’s Palestine Medical Complex.
Later in the day, the streets leading to the camp were barricaded by burning tyres manned by young men, as black clouds of smoke billowed into the air.
Some of the young men directed the traffic that had backed up for hundreds of metres, while others inspected the cars for possible Israeli agents.
The Israeli army has been increasingly using undercover units known as mustarabeen, Israeli forces who dress up as Arabs to infiltrate communities and arrest wanted persons.
A tense calm settled over the camp after Israeli forces withdrew, as dozens of young men came to inspect Abu Shaheen’s destroyed home and the damage surrounding it.
At Ramallah’s main government hospital, dozens of young men milled around the emergency department, where many of their friends were being treated for gunshot wounds. As the body of one of the dead Palestinians was brought in by ambulance and taken to the morgue, the anger among the youth of Qalandiya camp was palpable.
“There will be big clashes after this afternoon’s prayers. We will fight the Israelis and I hope the third Intifada comes soon,” one of the young men told Al Jazeera.
The funerals of the two Palestinians, expected to be held after midday prayers on Monday, coincide with a day of rage called for by various Palestinian factions and university student groups, during which Palestinian protesters were expected to march to numerous Israeli checkpoints throughout the West Bank.
Meanwhile, 23 other Palestinians were arrested overnight elsewhere in the West Bank.