Clashes between Palestinians and IDF soldiers resumed Monday afternoon in the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem, following a funeral for three Palestinians who were killed in a confrontation with Israeli Border Police there earlier in the day.
Rioters were pelting the troops with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and Israeli forces were firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters in an attempt to contain the protest and keep the demonstrators at bay.
A session of the newly resumed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, scheduled for Monday night in Jericho at the home of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, was canceled by the Palestinians in response to the deaths.
An official from the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians decided to postpone Monday’s meeting between Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to protest the killings. He said the Palestinians were also upset about an Israeli announcement on Sunday pushing forward with new construction in East Jerusalem.
Another official told the AFP news agency that “the meeting that was to take place in Jericho… today was cancelled because of the Israeli crime committed in Qalandiya today.”
Border Police spokesman Shai Hakimi said officers were on an early morning raid to apprehend a “terror suspect” when over 1,500 Palestinians poured into the streets and attacked the officers with firebombs and rocks.
Hakimi said officers used riot control munitions — a term that usually refers to rubber bullets and tear gas. He said he wasn’t aware of any use of live fire nor of any Palestinians killed.
The IDF said soldiers rushed to the scene after the Border Police officers came under attack. It said soldiers opened fire after they felt their lives were in “imminent danger.”
“Large violent crowds such as this which significantly outnumber security forces leave no other choice but to resort to live fire in self-defense,” said military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
Hatim Khatib, whose brother Youssef was arrested in the raid, told the Associated Press that undercover troops dressed in civilian clothes arrived at their home at 4:30 a.m. looking for the brother.
“After half an hour we started hearing shooting from the soldiers inside our house, and then people started throwing stones at them,” he said.
Youssef was arrested after he returned from morning prayers at 7 a.m., he said.
He said he didn’t know why his brother was arrested but said he had spent time in Israeli jail for throwing rocks and was released three years ago. The Israeli military would not elaborate as to why he was wanted.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, issued a statement condemning Israel for what he termed its assassination of the three men in Qalandiya. He added that the slew of crimes committed by the Israelis and their continued settlement construction were a clear sign of Israel’s true intentions.
Rudeineh called on the American government to intervene and prevent a collapse in the efforts to restart the peace process.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also condemned the incident. “Such a crime proves the need for an urgent and effective international protection for our people,” he said in a statement.
According to Palestinian news outlets, the Israeli forces entered Qalandiya around 5 a.m. Monday morning. Medical sources in Ramallah, cited by WAFA news, reported that Rubin Zayed, 34, and Younis Jahjouh, 22, died in the subsequent clashes with soldiers.
A third man, Jihad Aslan, 27, died of injuries sustained in the clashes after being pronounced brain dead at a Ramallah hospital, according to Ma’an News.
Over a dozen more were injured, one seriously, by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation. There were no reports of soldiers injured in the skirmish.
A video uploaded to YouTube appeared to show Palestinians on rooftops in Qalandiya raining down rubble on Border Police vehicles.
The IDF said the incident was under investigation.