Israeli troops killed a Palestinian in the city of Nablus after a series of attacks inside Israel sparked five consecutive days of army raids in the illegally occupied West Bank.
“The young man, Muhammad Hassan Muhammad Assaf, 34, died after being shot in the chest by the Israeli occupation army during the aggression on the city of Nablus,” the Palestinian health ministry said on Wednesday.
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Assaf was the legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority’s committee against the wall and settlements, according to the ministry.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 31 people had been wounded in Nablus and the nearby village of Beita, including 10 people by live fire, six by rubber-coated bullets and 13 by tear gas.
The Israeli army raided Beita and Lubban ash-Sharqiya, south of Nablus, at about 5am local time, according to the medical organisation. The army also raided the villages of Urif and Balata, east of Nablus, where an exchange of gunfire was reported.
‘Murder for the sake of murder’
Israeli public radio said troops entered Nablus to escort Israeli workers repairing damage done by Palestinians to a site Jews revere as the tomb of Joseph.
“We will not abide such an assault on a place that is holy to us – on the eve of Passover,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was quoted as saying, referring to a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Israeli troops racing through the city’s streets in an armoured convoy opened fire as a crowd pelted them with rocks and incendiary devices.
Assaf was standing by the roadside having just taken his nephews to school when he was hit by a bullet as Israeli forces fired while pulling out of Nablus, witnesses told AFP news agency
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Israeli soldiers of “murder for the sake of murder, with a license granted by the prime minister of the occupying state, Naftali Bennett, without the slightest regard for international law”.
The Israeli army did not immediately comment on Assaf’s killing. It said earlier troops were “conducting counterterrorist operations” in Nablus and other West Bank cities.
Israeli forces have killed 16 Palestinians, including assailants, in the same period, according to an AFP count.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, meanwhile, reported 14 new arrests overnight across the West Bank.
Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Jenin, said, “There is a real concern that, if the death toll among the Palestinians continues to rise, it will inflame the situation and the escalation will grow.”
Recent raids have focused on the cities of Nablus and Jenin, where two suspected gunmen in the attacks in Israel hailed from.
“The big question and concern has been what will Hamas do,” Ghoneim said. “Hamas has remained on the sidelines, criticising the Israeli government and applauding the attacks. The concern is that … Hamas will retaliate and retaliation means firing rockets into Israel.”
Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip are still reeling from an 11-day assault in May, which resulted in the deaths of 232 people and major destruction to the already impoverished territory.