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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Palestinian teens killed by Israeli forces in West Bank

The teenagers, identified as 16-year-old Ahmad Hamidat and 17-year-old Muhammad al-Bitar, were reportedly shot while near a local cemetery.

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed by Israeli gunfire near the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The incident occurred west of Jericho on June 1. The teenagers, identified as 16-year-old Ahmad Hamidat and 17-year-old Muhammad al-Bitar, were reportedly shot while near a local cemetery. Israeli military sources claimed that the teenagers had hurled explosives towards a nearby settlement, prompting soldiers to respond with live fire.

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The Palestinian health ministry reported that Hamidat was killed instantly, while al-Bitar succumbed to his injuries the following day in a Jerusalem hospital. Palestinian media reported that medical teams were initially prevented from reaching the wounded teenagers, exacerbating the situation.

Conflicting Narratives

The Israeli military did not confirm the deaths but stated that two suspects had endangered civilians by throwing explosives, necessitating a lethal response. “Hits were identified,” the military said in a statement. This assertion contrasts with reports from Palestinian sources, which emphasize the severe impact of the Israeli response and the obstacles faced by medical responders.

Israeli forces have been increasingly active in the West Bank, responding to what they describe as security threats. This heightened military presence has been met with significant resistance from Palestinian factions, leading to frequent and deadly clashes.

Incident in Hebron

In a separate incident, a 14-year-old Palestinian identified as Majd Shahir Aramin was killed by Israeli troops near Hebron in the southern West Bank. The Israeli military described the teenager as an assailant who attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against soldiers. “The soldiers fired at him and killed him,” the military’s statement read. The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the fatality, further highlighting the ongoing violence in the region.

Surging Violence and Casualties

The West Bank has seen a significant increase in violence over the past year, particularly since the Israel-Hamas conflict intensified on October 7. According to Palestinian officials, at least 519 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the start of the war in Gaza. Over the same period, attacks by Palestinians have resulted in the deaths of at least 12 Israelis in the West Bank, based on an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Broader Impact 

The rising death toll includes a significant number of children, with at least 131 Palestinian minors killed. The violence has also led to widespread destruction of infrastructure and significant civilian casualties, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the region. Israeli forces have conducted numerous raids, which often result in fierce clashes with Palestinian resistance groups. These operations typically lead to further casualties and destruction, fueling the cycle of violence.

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Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has called for an intensified crackdown on Palestinian resistance in the West Bank. “Terror needs to be uprooted anywhere, even if it means Tulkarem will look like Gaza looks today,” Smotrich stated on May 29. This hardline stance reflects the Israeli government’s broader approach to security in the region, which has been characterized by aggressive military tactics and stringent measures.