Two Palestinians shot in West Bank clashes with Jewish settlers
JERUSALEM — Clashes erupted Saturday in the West Bank, where Jewish settlers shot two Palestinian demonstrators in the northern village of Kusra, an Israeli military official and Palestinian residents said.
The clashes reflected mounting friction in the West Bank, where Palestinians have faced off against Israeli troops in recent weeks in large demonstrations protesting Israel’s control of the territory in general and in support of four hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails.
Also Saturday, a Palestinian prisoner died in an Israeli jail, an event that is likely to intensify tension in the area.
In the West Bank skirmish, Helmi Abdul-Aziz, 24, was shot in the stomach by Jewish settlers and 14-year-old Mustafa Hilal was shot in the foot, Palestinian demonstrators said.
An Israeli military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that two Palestinians were shot but said the bullets appeared to have been fired by Jewish settlers because the Israeli forces were not using live ammunition. Two Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at demonstrators but said they did not use live fire.
Villagers said the clashes began when a group of Jewish settlers encroached on their village lands and fired guns, escalating after settlers chased off a Palestinian farmer and his family.
Israel Radio reported that settlers from Eish Kodesh, an unau- thorized Jewish outpost, said the clashes began when Palestinians entered the outpost and began destroying their vineyards.
In an Israeli jail Saturday, Palestinian prisoner Arafat Shalish Shahin Jaradat, who had not been on a hunger strike, died of an apparent heart attack, according to Israeli prison services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman.
Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, said Jaradat, 30, was arrested Feb. 18 after residents in his West Bank village said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli citizen. Jaradat admitted to the charge, as well to a similar incident last year, Shin Bet said.
Israeli police have opened an investigation into the prisoner’s death, Shin Bet said.