Palestinian villagers and Jewish settlers clashed in the northern West Bank village of Qusra on Saturday, wounding a demonstrator who protesters say was shot in the stomach.
Palestinian sources claimed two others were injured in the clashes, while the IDF put the wounded toll at two.
The clashes reflected mounting friction in the West Bank, where Palestinians have faced off against Israeli troops in recent weeks in a series of large demonstrations protesting Israel’s control of the territory in general and in solidarity of four hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails.
In the West Bank skirmish, Helmi Abdul-Aziz, 24, was shot in the stomach by Jewish settlers, Palestinian demonstrators said. They said Jewish settlers also shot 14-year-old Mustafa Hilal in the foot.
An Israeli military official confirmed that two Palestinians were shot, adding that the bullets appeared to have been fired by Jewish settlers because the Israeli forces were not using live ammunition. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with military policy.
A Palestinian hospital official said Abdul-Aziz was in serious condition. The medic requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Villagers said the clashes began when a group of Jewish settlers encroached on their village lands and fired guns. They said Jewish settlers chased a Palestinian farmer and his family off land, prompting the farmer to call on residents to confront the settlers, and men on both sides hurled rocks at each other.
The Israeli military official said about 200 Palestinians and 25 Jewish settlers took part in the clashes, and Israeli forces dispersed Palestinian protesters using “riot dispersal means.”
Two Palestinian residents watching the clashes, Basem Nazal and Abdul-Azim Wadi, said Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on demonstrators, and that a rubber bullet hit a 15-year-old Palestinian demonstrator in the eye. They also said the Israeli forces did not use live fire.
Nazal, a resident of Qusra, said groups of settlers were also uprooting their olive trees and vandalizing Palestinian homes close the wildcat Jewish outpost of Esh Kodesh.
Israel Radio reported that settlers from Esh Kodesh said the clashes began when Palestinians entered their outpost and began destroying their vineyards.
Settler officials were not immediately available for comment on the Jewish Sabbath, but villagers said the most likely perpetrator was a Jewish settler. They said a group of Israeli civilians had encroached onto their village lands armed with guns that they initially fired during the melee.
The clashes come a day after widespread demonstrations took place throughout the West Bank in support of four hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention. More broadly, there has been a general rise in Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank against Israel’s control of the territory.
There have also been a series of clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the Qusra area.
Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, dozens of settler activists from the nearby Esh Kodesh outpost broke into Palestinians’ homes in Qusra and set fire to six cars, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported. According to the report, the settlers clashed with local residents until the IDF intervened and forced them to leave the village.
A spokesman for the Esh Kodesh outpost denied involvement, saying all the residents spent the night in bed.
Earlier Wednesday, roughly 60 Palestinians participated in violent protests in Qusra. Some of the protesters threw stones at Border Police, lightly injuring two officers.
On Friday, Palestinian demonstrators threw stones at Israeli security forces at several locations.