At least 16 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry, amid protests against the continuing Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.
Protests were held in cities across the Israeli-occupied territory on Friday, including Ramallah, Tulkarem, Nablus and Hebron, hours after Israel ordered residents in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes ahead of an expected ground invasion.
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The AFP news agency reported that at least three people were killed in the town of Tulkarem, and a 14-year-old boy was killed in Beit Furik, near Nablus. The news outlet dpa reported that Israeli settlers, alongside soldiers, took part in some confrontations with Palestinian protesters.
At least 51 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The killings come amid rising tensions in the West Bank, as Israel carries out a crushing campaign of air strikes on Gaza and ground raids against the Palestinian group Hamas, which governs Gaza. Hamas fighters had carried out a lightning attack in southern Israel on Saturday that killed at least 1,300 people.
In neighbouring Jordan, riot police dispersed a pro-Palestinian rally as it tried to march towards the border with the occupied West Bank, which Israeli authorities have placed under total lockdown.
Jordan and Egypt have expressed concern that further escalation could have a destabilising effect within their own countries and across the region.
Cairo on Friday rejected Israel’s demand for more than one million residents of northern Gaza to move south, amid fears of a massive influx of refugees across the heavily fortified border into its territory.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the Israeli demand “constitutes a grave violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, and will expose the lives of more than a million Palestinian citizens and their families to the dangers of remaining in the open without shelter”.
The United Nations has said that such a large-scale evacuation, carried out under constant Israeli bombing, is “impossible”, would have “devastating humanitarian consequences” and has called for the order to be rescinded.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, a rights group, warned that the demand, “absent of any guarantees of safety or return, would amount to the war crime of forcible transfer”.
Israel’s UN envoy said late on Friday the order was for residents in northern Gaza to “temporarily” relocate to the south.
In the occupied West Bank, settler violence has also intensified since Saturday.
Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced earlier this week that his ministry was purchasing 10,000 assault rifles for distribution to Israelis, including those living in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
A settler shoots a Palestinian man point blank. A soldier standing nearby does nothing. Today in the West Bank village of Twani https://t.co/Ktisjzmurq
— Haggai Matar (@Ha_Matar) October 13, 2023
Footage from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem appears to show an incident in which an Israeli settler shoots a Palestinian man near at-Tuwani close to south Hebron at point blank, as an Israeli soldier stands nearby.
On Thursday, a Palestinian man and his son were shot and killed when settlers opened fire on a funeral taking place for several Palestinians killed in a separate settler attack the previous day.