SEBASTIA, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian in disputed circumstances in the northern West Bank — the latest in an ongoing surge of violence that has gripped the region.
The Israeli army said in a statement that two Palestinian men tried to drive a car into soldiers at Sebastia near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, around midnight, but the claim could not be verified. Soldiers opened fire, killing one and wounding the other.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the young man killed as Fawzi Makhalfeh, 18. Palestinian media quoted the victims’ family as saying the two did not target soldiers but that they were ambushed while driving and their car was riddled with bullets.
The mayor of Sebastia, Mohammad Azem, said he was one of the first to arrive at the scene. He described a bloody carnage, with more than fifty bullet holes in the chassis. “He was a university student,” Azem said, “it was just so brutal.”
Sebastia resident Mohammad al-Shaar said he heard the shooting and rushed to the scene to find soldiers blocking the road. Speaking next to the ruined car, he pointed to blood stains and windows punctured by dozens of bullet holes.
Hundreds attended the funeral ceremony in Sebastia on Saturday. Makhalfeh’s father helped carry his son’s body which was covered with the Palestinian flag while his head was wrapped in a keffiyeh. He told local media his son was hoping to get married soon
Makhalfeh had just passed his high school exams and was in good spirits before the shooting, according to local reports.
The shooting came hours after a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire elsewhere in the West Bank.
The spiral of violence, which shows no signs of abating, is one of the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in years. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of 2023 in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
Violence between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank intensified early last year when Israel expanded near-nightly raids into Palestinian areas in response to a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting army raids and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
Associated Press writer Sam McNeil reported from Jerusalem.