Senior Palestinian Authority officials on Sunday accused Israel of escalating tensions after Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinian youth in the West Bank in 24 hours.
Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib called for an independent investigation into the killing of 19-year-old cousins Mohammed Qawariq and Saleh Qawariq on Sunday, who were shot by Israel Defense Forces troops who they attempted to stab with a pitchfork. The soldiers were not harmed in the incident.
Khatib cited witness accounts that the two had been shot only after being arrested, while Mahmoud al-Aloul, a senior figure in the Fatah party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the youth had been killed in "cold blood".
"Nobody can imagine that we can stand with our hands tied vis-a-vis what is happening," Aloul told around 1,500 mourners at their funeral in Awarta, south of Nablus.
According to initial reports, soldiers from the IDF's Nahshon Battalion were stationed south of the Israeli settlement of Itamar in order to protect Palestinians plowing their land.
"Two men tried to stab a soldier during a routine patrol near the Awarta security crossing near Nablus. The force opened fire and confirmed their death," an army spokeswoman said.Earlier Sunday, a 19-year-old Palestinian died of wounds sustained one day earlier when IDF troops opened fire on demonstrators south of Nablus.
Oseyd Abd al-Nasser Kadus was hit in the midriff by a rubber-coated bullet and was taken to the hospital in Nablus, where he had been listed in critical condition.
Another youth, Ibrahim Abd al-Khader Kadus, 16, died Saturday after being hit in the heart by a rubber-coated bullet fired by IDF troops.
The two were wounded clash after IDF soldiers tried to prevent clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians near the village of Iraq Burin, south of Nablus. Villagers own land that borders the nearby settlement of Bracha.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel had responded to U.S. and international efforts to revive peace talks "with more escalation" that thwarted attempts to get negotiations going.
The head of the local village council, Abd al-Rahim Kadus, told Haaretz that every Saturday settlers come to the village, attack the locals and destroy property, leading to clashes with the Palestinians.
Israeli troops usually intervene to break up the fighting, which then turns into a confrontation between young villagers and the soldiers.
The Palestinians maintain that the two teenagers were hit by live ammunition and that the soldiers prevented Palestinian medical staff from evacuating them. The two teenagers were subsequently rushed to the hospital in private cars.
The IDF began an investigation into the incident, which marked the first killing of a Palestinian in months. Army sources told Haaretz that the Palestinians' claim that live rounds were fired is false.
The human rights group B'Tselem, which sent an investigator to the hospital in Nablus, said that both casualties were the result of live rounds.
In recent weeks demonstrations have taken place in the area by villagers, who have also pelted soldiers with stones.
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