A Palestinian teenager was shot dead on Wednesday during clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces in a village south of Nablus.
Mohammed Hamayel, 15, was hit in the head by Israeli fire, the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry said.
The clashes broke out after Israeli security forces arrived at the Orma hilltop in the village of Beita, the official PA news site, Wafa, reported. In addition to Hamayel, 16 other Palestinians were wounded, including two who were in critical condition, the PA Health Ministry said.
The IDF said that approximately 500 Palestinians participated in “a violent riot,” where they lobbied rocks at soldiers and set tires on fire.
It also said it was aware that a Palestinian was killed and several others were injured, adding that the incident would be investigated.
Walid Assaf, the head of the PA’s Commission Against the Wall and Settlements, said Palestinians had been holding a sit-in on the hilltop early Wednesday to “protect it from being taken over by settlers.”
“Around 5 a.m., large numbers of army jeeps arrived at Orma and soldiers started to shoot live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas and everything else they have at us,” Assaf said in a phone call, noting that Palestinians have regularly gathered at the site since they learned about “the settler efforts to seize it.”
He said the clashes continued for several hours into the late morning.
The hilltop is in Area B of the West Bank, where — according to the Oslo Accords — the PA is responsible for civil affairs and Israel is largely in charge of security issues.
Assaf described it as an archaeological site containing an ancient fortress as well as 18 wells, but downplayed Jewish connections to it, contending that they were not involved in its construction.
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan described the site in a Facebook post on February 17 as Jewish and argued it was where the biblical story of Abimelech, who was a king in the Book of Judges, took place.
Dagan also accused the PA of destroying Orma and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials to intervene.
“It is totally forbidden for the State of Israel to abandon the site in this way,” he said.
Several PA officials, including Assaf, attended an event there on February 26 to inaugurate a project, which the PA Nablus Governorate said was aimed at turning it into an archaeological park.
Assaf denied that the Palestinians were causing damage to the site.