BALATA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) — Two Israelis were killed in a suspected Palestinian shooting attack Saturday in a volatile area of the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said, the latest outburst of violence to rock the region.
The military said it was searching for suspects and setting up roadblocks near the town of Hawara, a flashpoint area in the northern West Bank, which has seen repeated shooting attacks as well as a rampage by Jewish West Bank settlers that torched Palestinian property.
The shooting attack came after Palestinian official media said a Palestinian 19-year-old died of his wounds following an Israeli military raid into the West Bank on Wednesday.
The deaths are part of a relentless spiral of violence that has fueled the worst fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in nearly two decades. Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed since the start of this year and some 29 people have been killed by Palestinian attacks against Israelis, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
According to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Mohammad Abu Asab, 19, was shot in the head on Wednesday during an Israeli army incursion into the Balata refugee camp near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. It cited medical officials.
The Israeli military said in its statement Wednesday that a commando unit raided Balata seeking to destroy an underground weapons factory when a gunfight erupted.
Wafa reported that during the fighting, Abu Asab was shot in the head and then taken to the Rafidia hospital in Nablus where he later died from his wounds.
Palestinian health officials did not immediately confirm the death.
It was not immediately clear if Abu Asab was affiliated with a militant group and he wasn’t immediately claimed as a member by any group.
Israel has been staging near-nightly raids since last spring in response to a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see the violence as a natural response to 56 years of occupation, including stepped-up settlement construction by Israel’s government and increased violence by Jewish settlers.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek the territories for their hoped-for independent state. ___
McNeil contributed from Jerusalem.