Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in a clash in the West Bank, medics said yesterday, hiking tensions ahead of the burial of a Palestinian prisoner who died in jail.
The clashes late on Wednesday in the northern town of Tulkarem came after two days of violent protests and a general strike following the death of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a prisoner serving life in Israeli jail who was suffering from cancer.
The army said troops opened fire at “rioters who hurled petrol bombs” at a military post there.
Palestinian security officials said Amer Nassar, 16, was hit by a bullet to the head and the body of his 17-year-old cousin Naji Balbisi was discovered near an army checkpoint at first light yesterday, with wounds to the chest.
Both teenagers were to be buried after midday prayers.
With Palestinian anger at boiling point, Gaza militants fired a mortar shell at southern Israel early yesterday, public radio said.
The army confirmed the fire, but could not say whether it was a mortar round or a rocket.
“It’s a military-use projectile,” a spokesman said, adding that there were no reports of casualties or damage.
Abu Hamdiyeh’s death on Tuesday morning after a battle with throat cancer sparked fury across the occupied territories, with Israel bracing for further unrest when he is buried in Hebron after the midday prayers.
Since news of his death emerged, Hebron has been wracked by ongoing clashes between stone-throwing youths and Israeli troops, and since Tuesday the city has been shut down for a three-day general strike in a show of mourning.
Thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails also went on a one-day hunger strike, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
The Palestinian leadership has accused Israel of medical negligence in Abu Hamdiyeh’s death, despite moves by the prison service to secure his early release on compassionate grounds.
The issue of Palestinians jailed by Israel is highly sensitive and frequently sparks mass demonstrations across the territories that often develop into violent clashes with the military.
“The Israeli government, in its arrogance, doesn’t care” about the prisoners, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas charged on Wednesday.
In Gaza, Salafist militants have since fired a handful of rockets over the border in protest, prompting a retaliatory air strike and a warning from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that Israel would not tolerate attacks on its territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that if an existent truce in and around Gaza was violated, Israel would “respond forcefully.”
In a separate development, Israel has deployed a fifth battery of its Iron Dome anti-missile system in the southern city of Eilat, because of fears of rocket fire on the Red Sea resort, media reports said.
Abu Hamdiyeh was jailed for life in 2002 on charges of attempted murder in connection with a failed bombing attack on a Jerusalem cafe. He had served 10 years of his sentence when he died.