QALANDIYA - Israeli forces shot dead at least two Palestinians on Monday when heavy clashes erupted during an operation to destroy the West Bank home of an alleged attacker, the latest in a series of punitive demolitions.

In a bid to halt a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks that began at the start of October, Israeli authorities have moved to expedite demolitions of suspects’ homes a controversial measure meant to act as a deterrent.

Confrontations and clashes have erupted in the past over such demolitions, but they have rarely been as deadly as Monday’s at the Qalandiya refugee camp, just beyond a checkpoint leading from east Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank.

According to the Israeli military, hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at security forces, while some opened fire. Jamal Lafi, head of the Qalandiya camp’s popular committee, told AFP that “a large force from the Israeli army invaded the camp from all sides after midnight.”

Israeli forces shot three Palestinians, with two confirmed dead by Palestinian hospital sources. Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner spoke of a third death, but Palestinian hospital sources had not confirmed it.

Palestinian medics identified those killed as Ahmed al-Ayesh, 28 and a father of three, and Laith Manasra, 21. The home on a floor of a larger building was demolished seemingly with explosives, with crumbled concrete later piled on the ground and onlookers gathering to view it.

Hundreds also gathered as the funeral for the two Palestinians killed began nearby. The camp, established in 1949 in the wake of the creation of Israel and which has grown into a town, includes 11,000 registered refugees. The UN says nearly one in five residents is unemployed.

Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, blamed Israel’s occupation for the violence. “I am sure if they are continuing with these processes there will be reactions like this,” he said.

The home targeted was that of Mohammed Abu Shahin, accused of shooting dead Danny Gonen, a 25-year-old Israeli hiker, near the Dolev settlement in the West Bank on June 19, in an attack that also wounded another Israeli.

The murder, which occurred on the first day of Ramadan, led to outrage among Israelis. The two victims were not settlers but hikers who had come from Lod in central Israel. According to Israeli authorities, the attacker approached their car and asked whether there was water in a nearby spring before pulling out a gun and shooting them.

Shahin’s arrest was announced in July, with Israel alleging he belonged to an armed group linked to Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. The shooting occurred before the current wave of violence that began in October, but Israel has sought to expedite demolitions for a range of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis as a deterrent measure.

Violence since the start of October has killed 83 people on the Palestinian side - including one Arab Israeli - and 12 Israelis. Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others were shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces.

Israel argues that the demolition policy is effective, but critics say the main victims are relatives forced to pay for another person’s actions.

On Saturday, Israeli troops razed the West Bank homes of four Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, hours after an Israeli father and son were shot dead in an ambush near the flashpoint city of Hebron. Three of the homes were destroyed in Nablus, in the northern West Bank, and the other in Silwad, northeast of Ramallah.

Those operations also sparked clashes in which nine Palestinians were wounded. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon defended the demolitions on Monday and said they would continue, adding that “our forces acted professionally” during the operation in Qalandiya.

He cited the case of a Palestinian arrested over Friday’s murder of the Israeli father and son. Israeli security forces said his father and brother turned him in, fearing that their home would be razed. “In recent months, Palestinians have turned in their sons or informed us in advance that they are about to carry out an attack to avoid having their home destroyed,” said Yaalon.