Israel kills 2 Palestinians in West Bank as Netanyahu races ahead with hard-line agenda

AP , AFP , Wednesday 11 Jan 2023

Two Palestinians were killed Wednesday in separate Israeli attacks in the occupied West Bank, the latest deadly confrontation after the most right-wing and religiously conservative government upends Israeli politics.

A man films with his mobile telephone as Palestinian mourners gather arround the body of Ahmed Amer
A man films with his mobile telephone as Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Ahmed Amer Salim Abu Junaid, who succumbed to his wounds after he was shot by Israeli troops in Balata refugee camp, in the West Bank town of Nablus, on January 11, 2022. AFP


Wednesday's violence was the latest in a surge in attacks in the West Bank, following the deadliest year for Palestinians in the territory in 18 years.

During a pre-dawn Israeli military incursion into the hardscrabble Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus, Israeli forces shot 21-year-old Ahmed Abu Junaid in the head and he died several hours later, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

In this context, the Israeli occupation reported several arrest raids across the West Bank including in the Balata refugee camp where a gunfight allegedly erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, the army said, acknowledging that a Palestinian was hit.

Palestinian health officials said that Israeli forces surrounded a house in the congested camp during the arrest operation and unleashed live fire, tear gas and stun grenades at a crowd of young men.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, an armed militia affiliated with Fatah, the secular political party that controls the Palestinian Authority, claimed Abu Junaid as a fighter.

Also Wednesday, a Palestinian was shot and killed by an Israeli passer-by while carrying out what Israeli described as a stabbing attack on a Jewish settler at a settlement in the southern West Bank. 

The attack took place at the Havat Yehuda outpost, an illegal settlement near the flash point city of Hebron. Israel has constructed dozens of Jewish settlements that are home to around 500,000 Israelis who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians and the international community view the settlements as a violation of international law.

Today's deaths bring the toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire so far in 2023 to six.

This comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on violations of international law with his new government promising to ramp up the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank only within days of seizing power. 

The new government considered the most hard-line and religious government in Israel's history has already started taking punitive steps towards the Palestinian people, withholding some $40 million in tax revenues directed towards the development of Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

Other steps include revoking entry permits of top Palestinian officials, banning the display of the Palestinian flag and imposing wider restrictions on those entering, exiting and moving within the occupied territories.

The ban is "a shameless attempt to legitimise racism", rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty called the the new measure "repressive" and an "audacious attack on the rights to nationality, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly", in a statement sent to AFP.

Israeli authorities over the weekend even broke up a meeting of Palestinian parents discussing their children's school conditions in east Jerusalem. Israel claimed the meeting was funded by the Palestinian Authority but provided no supporting evidence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday accused Israel of trying to "topple the (Palestinian) authority and pushing it to the brink, financially and institutionally.''

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak warned that the plan would turn Israel into a “hollow democracy." While Benny Gantz, a former defense minister said on Monday that Netanyahu was pushing Israel toward a “civil war."

Earlier this month, Israel's extreme-right firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, enraging Palestinians who see the move as a provocation and drwaing wave of international condemnation.

However, Netanyahu warned in an Israeli faction meeting on Monday that his new government “received a clear mandate from the public," adding that his government will carry out what he promised in the elections.

“That's what we will do," he asserted.

Israeli military raids have surged in the West Bank since last March.  At least 146 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in 2022 in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem.

Last year's death toll was the highest since 2004, during a wave of intense violence known as the Second Intifada, or Palestinain uprising.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online

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