HEBRON - Israeli soldiers killed a 14-year-old Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Friday as they pressed a crackdown on the Hamas movement in their search for three missing teenagers.
Troops also wounded two Palestinians in a refugee camp just outside Jerusalem, medical sources said, as clashes flared during the massive military operation in which forces have detained 30 Palestinians over the past week. Israel accuses Hamas of kidnapping two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old who went missing at a hitch-hiking stop in the West Bank, an allegation the group has dismissed.
But Israel seized on the opportunity to drive a wedge between Hamas and the Palestinian leadership, who formed a merged administration for the West Bank and Gaza Strip just this month for the first time in seven years.
Palestinian security and medical sources said 14-year-old Mohammed Dudin was shot in the chest in a clash that erupted after Israeli soldiers arrived to conduct arrests in the village of Dura, south of the West Bank city of Hebron.
Dudin was taken to the Alia hospital in Hebron, where he was later pronounced dead.
The army said villagers had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at troops on an arrest mission in Dura, and that soldiers had responded with live fire. A spokeswoman told AFP the army was examining the reports of Dudin’s death. In Qalandia refugee camp just north of Jerusalem, troops shot and wounded two young Palestinians, medics said.
Mustafa Aslan, 20, was in critical condition at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem while Mohammed Shehada, 21, was being treated in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah - the head of the new unity government appointed on June 2 - attended the main weekly Muslim prayers in Hebron later Friday, but the army prevented him from attending Dudin’s burial in Dura.
Hamas has lashed out at the Palestinian leadership for its decision to maintain security coordination with Israel despite the massive wave of searches and arrests.
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki accused Israel of an “exaggerated” response, and questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that Hamas was behind the abduction.
“He cannot keep blaming one side without showing evidence,” Malki told AFP.
“Three kids have disappeared, but in exchange for that the Israeli army has taken 300 Palestinians,” he said. “Their reaction went beyond logic.”
Malki added, however, that “if it comes to be known that Hamas is behind it (the kidnapping), then of course the unity government will be at risk.”
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, meanwhile, that Israel’s “working assumption” was that “the abductees are alive, until proven otherwise.”
Speaking to security forces involved in the West Bank arrests and searches, Yaalon said: “We have no intention to sow unrest on the ground - we are acting responsibly.”
Israeli troops also carried out search and arrest operations overnight in the Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem, and in Arura, north of Ramallah, “detaining some 25 suspects and searching approximately 200 locations,” the army said.
Troops were faced with “sporadic confrontations” in the form of “rocks, explosives and flammable devices” and responded to “the life-endangering threat with live fire,” it said.
Since the start of the operation last week, troops have “scanned about 1,150 locations in search for the abducted boys and for terror elements.”
“Approximately 330 suspects were detained, out of which 240 (are) terrorists associated with Hamas,” the army said.
Overnight, the Israeli military also carried out a series of air strikes in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket fire against southern Israel late Thursday, wounding six people, four of them children, Palestinian medics said.
The missing teenagers are Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near Ramallah, Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both in central Israel.