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Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers in West Bank under unclear circumstances

Palestinian health officials say Ammar Shafiq Abu Afifa, 21, was killed by soldiers at entrance to Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem; IDF does not say what he was suspected of

IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank Palestinian town of Silat al-Harithiya, December 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers operating in the West Bank Palestinian town of Silat al-Harithiya, December 20, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Tuesday afternoon, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry and the Israeli military said.

Palestinian health officials identified the man as Ammar Shafiq Abu Afifa from the al-Aroub refugee camp near Hebron. They said he was shot on the outskirts of Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem.

Officials said that they had received the report from the PA branch that handles ties with Israel, meaning that Abu Afifa’s body was likely in Israeli custody.

Nearly four hours after the incident occurred, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that soldiers operating security cameras identified two “suspects” approaching a lookout point near the settlement of Migdal Oz.

Troops dispatched to the scene chased the two men, and opened fire toward them according to open-fire procedures, the military said. Such procedure includes shouting at a suspect to halt, firing into the air, and only using deadly force if the soldier feels threatened.

The IDF did not detail what the two men were actually suspected of doing. It said the army was investigating the matter.

Also on Tuesday, amid clashes in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian who hurled a Molotov cocktail at troops was shot at, a military spokesperson said.

According to the IDF, some 20 Palestinians hurled stones at soldiers, and set tires on fire near the village of Burqa. “One of the suspects approached the troops and threw a Molotov cocktail at them. The troops responded with gunfire,” the spokesperson said.

The official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA said the man was seriously hurt and taken to a hospital in Nablus. The military was aware of this claim.

Earlier Tuesday, security officials said a battle in the northern West Bank left two Palestinian gunmen dead.

The Israel Police said undercover Border Police officers came under fire while arresting a terror suspect in the Jenin refugee camp. The suspect, Emad Abu al-Heija, is a son of an imprisoned senior Hamas commander.

Palestinian media identified the two fatalities as 19-year-old Shadi al-Najm and 22-year-old Abdullah al-Housri. The Islamic Jihad terror group immediately claimed al-Housri as one of its fighters. Al-Najm was later claimed by the loosely Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade as a “fighting member.”

The West Bank has seen a rise in violent confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in recent weeks, leaving at least six Palestinians dead. In an increasing number of cases, soldiers entering Palestinian areas to conduct routine arrests have been fired upon by armed terror group members, prompting gun battles.

Israeli troops during an arrest operation to detain two Palestinian men suspected of carrying out a failed attack on IDF soldiers on January 9, 2021, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli soldiers have also opened fire in more contested circumstances. Israeli soldiers shot and killed 22-year-old Nihad al-Barghouti in Nebi Saleh as he allegedly threw stones, an account contested by Palestinian witnesses.

In another controversial case, 14-year-old Mohammad Shahada Salah was killed by Israeli forces in his hometown of Al-Khader last week. The Israeli military said Salah had sought to hurl Molotov cocktails at Israeli cars on nearby Road 60. Palestinian town residents claimed he was nearly 100 meters (328 feet) from the security barrier, too far to throw Molotov cocktails.

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