A Palestinian man is evacuated to hospital
A Palestinian man is evacuated to hospital after shot in clashes with settlers on March 7, 2011. Photo by AP
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Israel Defense Forces soldiers opened fire on Palestinian villagers during clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday, an initial army investigation has found.

Nine Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, seven of them from gunfire, according to hospital officials in Nablus. One Israeli was hurt, after being struck in the head by a rock.

The IDF is probing whether the soldiers used live fire as a last resort, or whether they could have dispersed the demonstrations in other ways.

An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said following that incident soldiers "who apparently felt their lives were at threat" fired live ammunition as well as riot dispersal means, causing some of the injuries.

The Palestinians claim that the confrontation began when a group of 20 settlers marched onto land near the village of Qusra and began cutting down olive trees. Resident Eqab Hassan said locals began throwing rocks at the settlers, who responded by opening fire themselves.

The settlers say that the clashes began when a group of Palestinians armed with knives accosted them at the Eli Ayin outpost near the settlement of Shiloh, with the purpose of grabbing the agricultural land they had been tending.

Soldiers from Kfir Brigade were deployed at the scene to intervene, and say they were forced to open fire because they felt threatened by the Palestinians.

An IDF officer at the scene said a number of settler youth approached while soldiers were treating the Palestinians, and began hurling stones at the wounded.

Violence in the West Bank has largely subsided in the past few years, but Israeli military officials have warned in private that the stalling of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians could stoke tensions and break the status quo.

U.S.-brokered peace efforts broke down last year after Israel refused to give way to Palestinian demands to freeze settlement construction.