Ramallah, occupied West Bank – The Israeli army has shot and killed two Palestinian men at a military checkpoint south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinian health ministry announced just before 2am (11:00 GMT) on Friday that 47-year-old Imad Abu Rasheed was killed with bullets to his stomach, chest and head, with two others seriously wounded, at the Huwwara checkpoint on Route 60 in the northern occupied West Bank.
At 6:30am (03:30 GMT), officials reported that Ramzi Sami Zabara, 35, had succumbed to his wounds from a bullet to the heart.
The circumstances of their killing remain unclear.
The Israeli army said in a statement that its forces were “carrying out an operation close to the Hawara checkpoint” and that they “identified two suspicious vehicles and fired at them,” according to Israeli media.
The identity of the other wounded man was not immediately known, but he was reported to be in a stable condition after undergoing surgery at Rafidia hospital in Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank.
Both Zabara and Abu Rasheed worked for the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Defence, and lived in the Askar refugee camp on the eastern outskirts of Nablus.
A Nablus-based journalist, Shadi Jarar’ah, told Al Jazeera that they were in a car, along with the wounded man, when they were shot at by Israeli forces.
Jarar’ah said Israeli forces also shot at and arrested a fourth man who was in a separate car at the checkpoint.
A video shared by local media appeared to show Israeli soldiers transferring the body of a wounded Palestinian man on a stretcher into an ambulance.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said in a statement “we mourn the two martyrs” and said they were “killed during an ugly field execution crime carried out by occupation forces”.
Shtayyeh said the two were “among the finest officers and ranks of the Civil Defense, and pioneers of national, organizational and societal work in the Askar refugee camp”.
The PM also called on the “international community to provide protection to our people”.
The PA foreign ministry said in its own statement that it “condemns the execution” of the two men and “considers it organised and racist state terrorism”.
The city of Nablus and its surrounding villages, home to some 420,000 people, have been under a tight Israeli military blockade for more than two weeks. Hours before Friday’s events, the Israeli army said it eased some restrictions on movement in and out of the Nablus area.
The siege was imposed as Israeli forces searched for suspects in an October 11 shooting in which one Israeli soldier was killed near the illegal Israeli settlement of Shavei Shomron, northwest of Nablus. The recently formed Lions’ Den, a small armed resistance group based in Nablus’s Old City, claimed responsibility, and the man who carried it out remains on the run.
Friday’s killings come days after the Israeli army launched a large raid into Nablus’s Old City and killed five Palestinian men, three of whom belonged to the Lions’ Den group. The two others were unarmed barbers on their way home from work when they were shot dead by Israeli special forces on the street, residents and journalists told Al Jazeera.
Thousands turned up for the funeral of the five men, including hundreds armed with rifles and who shot live ammunition into the air – a symbol of widespread mourning and anger.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, Israeli forces have killed at least 186 Palestinians since the start of the year, including 134 people in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank and 51 in the besieged Gaza Strip. The death toll includes 41 children, 17 of whom were killed during Israel’s three-day assault on Gaza in August.
The United Nations has said that 2022 “is the highest year for Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank, compared to the same period in the previous 16 years”.