2 Palestinians killed as Israel raids West Bank


RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Israeli troops shot dead a mentally ill Palestinian who approached them in a West Bank refugee camp Sunday, the army said, while another Palestinian was killed in violent confrontations in the city of Ramallah.

In Ramallah, stone-throwers clashed separately with Israeli troops and Palestinian police, and witnesses said both forces used live fire.

An autopsy showed the man killed in Ramallah was shot by an M-16 rifle, said Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Aloul. Palestinian forces do not use M-16s, said spokesman Adnan Damiri. The Israeli military had no comment.

Sunday's deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians killed since Israel launched its most extensive military operation in the West Bank in years in response to the abduction of three Israeli teens on June 12.

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As part of the crackdown, Israel is trying to dismantle Hamas in the West Bank, after blaming the kidnapping on the Islamic militant group. Hamas has praised the abductions but not claimed responsibility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he has "unequivocal proof" of Hamas involvement, is sharing this evidence with several countries and will make it public soon.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he has "no credible information" that Hamas orchestrated the kidnapping. "When Netanyahu has such information, he needs to update me and we will take care of the matter according to our own laws," he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israel's large-scale arrest sweep has led to growing confrontations in the West Bank after years of relative calm. Increasingly, Israeli troops raiding towns and refugee camps are met by crowds of Palestinian stone-throwers.

There are also signs of growing Palestinian anger at the Western-backed Abbas, who has publicly defended his decision to continue security coordination with Israel, including in the search for the teens.

As part of such coordination, Palestinian security forces withdraw to their positions when Israeli troops raid West Bank towns.

This scenario played out when Israeli troops entered downtown Ramallah at about 2 a.m. Sunday, searching offices in two commercial buildings.

Several hundred Palestinians threw stones and flower pots at soldiers who fired live bullets and rubber-coated steel pellets, said Issam Rimawi, a photographer for a local newspaper.

After the soldiers withdrew, dozens of protesters hurled stones at a nearby Palestinian police station and smashed windows of parked cars, said Rimawi and a protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions from the authorities.

Palestinian troops fired live rounds, the two witnesses said.

After the clashes, the body of Mohammed Ismail, 31, was found on a rooftop opposite the police station, they said.

Ahmed Bitawi, the director at Ramallah Hospital, said Ismail was killed by live fire. Aloul, the Palestinian forensic pathologist, performed an autopsy and said Ismail was killed by an M-16 bullet in the shoulder.

On Sunday, several dozen people marched in downtown Ramallah to protest Israeli-Palestinian security coordination.

"Why, why security coordination? We get hit once by the Palestinian Authority and once by the Israeli army," they chanted.

Analyst Jihad Harb said the Israeli crackdown is weakening Abbas.

"The Palestinian street is very angry at the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas in particular because they see him siding with Israel against them," he said.

In a separate incident Sunday, 27-year-old Ahmed Saoud was killed by Israeli troops as he walked to a mosque for dawn prayers in the Al-Ein refugee camp, said his father, Assad. The elder Saoud said his son suffered from mental illness.

The army said a Palestinian man approached soldiers in a threatening manner early Sunday, and that they fired warning shots before shooting him. The army said an "initial inquiry" suggested the man was mentally unstable.

The Israeli teens went missing as they were returning home from a Jewish religious school in the West Bank 10 days ago. They have not been heard from, and no group has asked for ransom or made other demands.

Since then, Israel has arrested more than 350 Palestinians, most of them affiliated with Hamas, and raided some 1,600 sites in the West Bank.

The army said it arrested six Palestinians overnight Sunday, raided six sites affiliated with Hamas civilian institutions and confiscated funds from 42 sites it said were connected to militant activity.

In the Gaza Strip, Israel carried out airstrikes on four militant sites following rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, the army said. Also Sunday, a Palestinian armed with a hand grenade was caught near an Israeli town near the Gaza border, apparently after he broke through the border fence, the army said.