Two Palestinians were killed by security forces operating in the West Bank early Sunday morning, as Israel pushed on with a 10-day offensive aimed at recovering three kidnapped Israeli teens and pressuring the Hamas movement, which Israel holds responsible for the kidnapping.
One man was killed in Nablus after he approached Israeli border police forces operating in the city and was shot. According to Palestinian sources the man, Ahmed Fahnawi, 27, was shot four times and died later from his wounds. He was on his way to a mosque for morning prayers as clashes were taking place, security officials told AFP. Family members said he was mentally unsound.
A second man, 30-year-old Mohammed Tarifi, was shot during clashes with security forces at the entrance to Ramallah and later died en route to the hospital. Five other Palestinians were wounded in the clashes.
Witnesses in Ramallah reported that Palestinian protesters were also clashing with security forces belonging to the Palestinian Authority, who have been coordinating the operations with Israel’s military.
The IDF said that nine Palestinians were arrested overnight, bringing the total number of detainees since the operation began to some 350, many of them Hamas members. The Hamas detainees include dozens of men who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Hamas-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Israeli crackdown, which has included restrictions on freedom of movement, has led to anger on the Palestinian street, as IDF forces continued the search for the Israeli teens — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 — who were abducted June 12 while hitchhiking in the West Bank.
On Saturday, Israeli forces focused their search for the teens on caves, wells and cisterns in the northwestern area of the Hebron region, but military sources said there was no direct link between the search sites and information they had about the fate of the three.
“Since the beginning of the operation, IDF forces scanned about 1,350 locations in search of the abducted boys, for terrorists and for illegal weaponry,” the IDF said in a statement Saturday.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF chief Benny Gantz met Saturday with troops who have been searching for the teenagers. Ya’alon reiterated the Israeli government’s working assumption that the teenagers were alive, adding that Israel was exacting a heavy price from Hamas for the abduction.
Earlier Saturday, Palestinian officials said a 60-year-old man died of a heart attack while trying to prevent Israeli troops from searching his house.
AFP contributed to this report.