Two Palestinian Youths Killed by IDF Fire; Israel Braces for Riots Ahead of Prisoner's Funeral

Tensions high in West Bank as Israeli security forces brace for escalation in violence.

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Israeli troops have shot and killed two Palestinian youths in the West Bank, medical officials said Thursday, as confrontations entered a third day following the death of a prisoner in an Israeli jail.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops fired on Palestinians who threw fire bombs after dark on Wednesday at the Einav guard post near Tul Karm the northern West Bank. One body was swiftly recovered and a second was found in the early hours of Thursday.

Palestinian officials named the dead men as Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18. At least one other Palestinian was wounded in the incident and another arrested by Israeli forces.

The IDF confirmed the incident and said it was investigating. No IDF soldiers were injured.

Meanwhile, the defense establishment is bracing for escalated disturbances in the West Bank Thursday after the funeral of Maysara Abuhamdieh, the Palestinian security prisoner who died of cancer in Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Medical Center on Tuesday.

Violent clashes triggered by Abuhamdieh’s death continued in the West Bank on Wednesday, mostly in Hebron, the prisoner’s hometown and soon-to-be burial site. Some 200 people gathered in the city’s Policeman’s Square, throwing stones at IDF troops and rolling burning tires toward them.

IDF soldiers fired gas grenades and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters. An IDF company commander was lightly injured by a stone and received medical treatment at the site.

Some 300 Palestinians gathered in Beit Ommar, southwest of Bethlehem, and some of them threw stones at IDF troops, who fired gas grenades and rubber-coated bullets at them. In the afternoon some 100 Palestinians demonstrated in Hirbat Aliya near Bethlehem, throwing stones and two fire bombs. The IDF fired gas and stun grenades at them in a bid to disperse the demonstration.

Some 2,000 Palestinians held a protest procession in Nablus and some 300 people demonstrated in Tul Karm. No violence was reported.

The body of Abuhamdieh, 64, was transferred to the Palestinian forensic institute in Abu Dis for an autopsy by Palestinian and international pathologists.

Autopsy finds spread of cancer

Earlier on Wednesday, the initial autopsy performed on Abuhamdieh in Tel Aviv at Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine found a malignant tumor in the vocal cords that had spread to the throat, chest, lungs, liver, spine and ribs. The Health Ministry said no evidence of bruising was found on his body. The ministry also said Abuhamdieh was a heavy smoker.

The postmortem, performed by outgoing institute chief Dr. Yehuda Hiss in the presence of Palestinian Forensic Institute director Dr. Saber al-Alul, among others, concluded the death was caused by complications from cancer.

Abuhamdieh died Tuesday morning in the hospital after suffering from cancer. His death sparked a riot among security prisoners in Israeli prisons, who announced a three-day hunger strike.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of being responsible for Abuhamdieh’s death and of denying him adequate treatment.

The prisoner had been sentenced to life in 2002 after being convicted of attempted murder, membership in Hamas and possession of weapons. He was convicted of being one of the organizers of the attempted bombing of Jerusalem’s Kafit Cafe.

In February this year he was diagnosed with cancer and Israel Prison Service officials said he has been under medical observation in Soroka since then. A week ago, after a medical team concluded his illness was terminal, the prison service started a procedure to release Abuhamdieh, but he died before it was completed.

Alongside the tension in the West Bank, IDF troops and Palestinians exchanged fire across the Gazan border this week. Two rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday exploded in an open area near Sderot, hours after the Israel Air Force launched its first aerial strike on the coastal territory since declaring a truce with Hamas to end Operation Pillar of Defense last November.

Police sappers found a rocket inside a kindergarten in Sderot on Wednesday. The rocket had probably been fired during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit in Israel, but the facility had been closed until Wednesday.

IAF planes attacked two targets near the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya in response to three mortar shells fired at the western Negev on Tuesday. One of the shells landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, and two others landed near the border on the Palestinian side.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Wednesday that Israel would not tolerate any attacks on its territory. “We hold Hamas responsible for everything fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel,” he said. “We will under no circumstances tolerate a routine trickling in of fire on our citizens or our forces.”

On Tuesday, a mortar shell and gunfire from Syria struck two areas in the Golan Heights where IDF troops were patrolling. IDF tanks fired shells in response to the gunfire.

Palestinians watch as a burning tire rolls along the deserted main road in Hebron on Wednesday.Credit: Reuters

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