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Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Teenager in West Bank

Palestinians carrying the body of Muhammad Hani al-Kasba in the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank, on Friday.
By ISABEL KERSHNER
July 3, 2015

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank on Friday as he and others hurled stones and rocks at their army vehicle, the Israeli military said, while Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested more than 100 members of its rival group Hamas in the biggest such roundup in years.

The shooting was the latest in a wave of violent events in the area during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Palestinian news media identified the dead youth as Muhammad Hani al-Kasba, 17, and said he had been shot as he was trying to scale the Israeli-built wall near the Qalandia crossing point, between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, as he tried to reach Al Aqsa Mosque for midday prayers.

The Israeli military disputed that account, saying that Mr. Kasba had been a rock thrower and that a different Palestinian youth had been injured in a separate episode while trying to scale the wall in the same area.

The military distributed photographs of the smashed windshield of the army vehicle, which was carrying an Israeli brigade commander. A military spokeswoman said that its soldiers first fired into the air to warn the stone throwers to stop, and that the episode was under investigation. The Israeli news media reported that it was the brigade commander who shot the 17-year-old.

Thousands attended the youth’s funeral in the Qalandia refugee camp where he lived. The Palestinian news media reported that two of his brothers were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in 2002.

Internal Palestinian tensions simmered as well after the arrest of scores of members of Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza and has praised recent attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.

Gen. Adnan Damiri, the spokesman for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority forces, insisted in a statement that all detainees in the Palestinian Authority prisons had been arrested for security reasons and according to the law, and not on political grounds. He added, “Palestinian security will stand up against anyone who tries to undermine internal security or civil peace or to drag the country into bloody wars.”

Despite the signing of nominal reconciliation accords, Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, remain bitter rivals. Hamas, which has criticized the Palestinian Authority’s policy of maintaining security coordination with the Israelis under the terms of the peace accords of the 1990s, denounced the mass arrests, describing them as a “favor” to Israel.

Such sweeps are relatively common, and the detainees are sometimes released within hours or days. Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested dozens of Hamas supporters in March after Hamas detained Fatah members in Gaza.

Israeli security officials have described most of the attacks against Israelis over the past year as the work of Palestinian individuals without the backing of an organization. But Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, attributed recent shootings in the West Bank to a Hamas network whose command, he said, was in Turkey.

Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said this week that it had arrested about 40 members of Hamas in the West Bank over the past few months and that they had been trying to build up Hamas’s infrastructure in the area.

Since the start of Ramadan, two Israeli men have been killed in separate attacks by Palestinian gunmen and a Palestinian man was fatally shot after he opened fire at a military checkpoint in the Jordan Valley. A Palestinian woman stabbed and wounded a female Israeli military police officer at the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and another Palestinian man was shot and wounded this week after he ran at security officers at the Qalandia checkpoint, according to the Israeli authorities. He was found to have been unarmed.

Islamic militants in Gaza have also fired a number of rockets into southern Israel in recent weeks. The Israeli authorities said one landed in open ground on Friday, causing no injury. There was speculation that it may have been launched from the Sinai Desert, across the border with Egypt, where Islamic State militants have been battling Egyptian forces, but there was no immediate confirmation of that by the Israeli military.

As a result of the recent violence, Israel has canceled some measures that were meant to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement during Ramadan, such as special permits for family visits between the West Bank and Gaza.