Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli troops in West Bank refugee camp

Ben Lynfield

The Guardian  /  April 10, 2023

Teenager killed and two others wounded during Israeli arrest operation amid escalating tensions.

Israeli troops have fatally shot a 15-year-old Palestinian boy and wounded two other people during an arrest operation in a West Bank refugee camp, as tensions continued to escalate in the occupied territories.

Mohammed Balhan was shot in the head, chest and abdomen in the Aqabat Jabr camp near Jericho/Ariha, according to local Palestinian official Hani Obeidat, who called it an “unjustifiable crime”. A video showed him lying dead on a stretcher in the hospital, his head bandaged and his mother wailing as she leaned over his body.

The Israeli army confirmed its forces were operating in the camp “to apprehend a terror suspect” and said that “violent riots” had broken out. It said its troops had responded with live ammunition and identified “hits” after Palestinians opened fire on them and threw explosive devices and molotov cocktails.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank as thousands of far-right settlers joined by seven ministers in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet staged a march to advance plans for a new settlement on what local residents and rights groups say is private Palestinian property.

According to Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, dozens of Palestinians were treated for wounds from rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas as they tried to disrupt the settler foray on to Jabal Sabih, south of Nablus. The settlers, who tried to take over the area last year but left under an interim agreement with the government, refer to the same area as Evyatar.

Mustafa Barghouthi, a veteran Palestinian political figure, said: “We are sitting on an explosive barrel. Anything in Al-Aqsa Mosque or an attack here and there can explode the situation.”

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have soared since last week when police raided Al-Aqsa, a Jerusalem flashpoint mosque and the third-holiest site in Islam, whose esplanade is also revered as Judaism’s holiest site for housing the biblical temples.

Israeli forces were filmed clubbing Palestinians inside, touching off broad condemnations across the region and triggering rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon, to which Israel responded with airstrikes. Police said the raid was needed “to prevent a violent disturbance”.

Separately, Israeli troops kept up their pursuit of a Palestinian gunman who killed two British-Israeli sisters, Rina Deen, 15, and her sister Maya, 20, in a shooting attack Friday in the northern West Bank. Their mother, Lucy, died on Monday after being wounded in the attack. A day later, an Italian tourist, Alessandro Parini, was killed after he was run over by a Palestinian citizen of Israel on a Tel Aviv promenade.

Ben Lynfield is a journalist based in Jerusalem