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Palestinian killed in clashes as IDF launches arrest op in northern West Bank

Witnesses say Muhammed Assaf, 34, a human rights lawyer, was a bystander; dozens of Palestinians said hurt as troops secure restoration of vandalized Joseph’s Tomb shrine in Nablus

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank, on April 13, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank, on April 13, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

A Palestinian man died after he was shot during clashes with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday morning, Palestinian health officials said.

The clashes came as troops conducted arrest raids and secured the restoration of a shrine in Nablus, believed by some to be the tomb of the biblical Joseph, after it was vandalized twice by Palestinians in recent days.

The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 31 Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli forces at Joseph’s Tomb. The Palestinian Authority’s health ministry later said one of them died.

Palestinian health officials identified the deceased as 34-year-old human rights lawyer Muhammed Hassan Muhammed Assaf. Witnesses told AFP he was standing by the roadside, having just taken his nephews to school, when he was hit by a bullet as Israeli forces fired while pulling out after an incursion into Nablus.

He was mourned as a “fierce defender of his people” by the body he worked for, the Palestinian Authority’s colonization and wall resistance commission.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops responded with riot dispersal means and live fire at suspects during the clashes, which came as it was also carrying out wide-scale arrest raids across the northern West Bank, for the fifth day in a row.

Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, center, at the site of Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank during a rare daytime operation to renovate the site, April 13, 2022. (Roee Chedi/Samaria Regional Council)

On Tuesday, the military said a man was arrested in Nablus on suspicion of vandalizing the Jewish holy site.

In Nablus, the IDF said troops detained two Palestinians suspected of terror activities, and seized a makeshift submachine gun.

The military also said troops arrested three members of the Hamas terror group in Qalqilya. During the raid, clashes erupted in the area and one soldier was lightly hurt by a stone thrown at him.

Also on Wednesday, undercover officers arrest a wanted Palestinian in the West Bank city of Tulkarm in a rare daylight operation, police said. The suspect initially fled when officers tried to detain him. He was then shot and taken into custody.

Clashes erupted at the scene, near the local Khadouri University, during which an armed man was identified by the officers, and they opened fire at him, police said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that two people were shot during the incident.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, including the Jenin area and the towns of Urif, Qabatiya, and Jaba’, troops arrested 15 more Palestinians suspected of terror activities overnight, the IDF said.

The raids in Jenin come after a spate of deadly attacks in Israel, some of whose perpetrators came from the area.

According to Palestinian media reports, there were fresh clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in the city. Heavy gunfire was heard in footage posted on social media.

Since a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv last week, IDF troops have been operating in the terrorist’s hometown, seeking to arrest his father and brother for their alleged involvement in the attack.

The family of gunman Ra’ad Hazem has two houses in the area — one in the Jenin refugee camp and another in the nearby village of Deir Ghazaleh. Hazem was shot dead in an exchange of fire with police hours after the attack.

His father, Fathi, is a former security prisoner who previously served as an officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Jenin. He has praised his son for the killings and refused an Israeli summons for questioning.

Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israeli cities that left 14 people dead. The army has stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence.

AFP contributed to this report.

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