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Palestinian shot in W. Bank

Israeli army says the man was about to attack nearby Jewish settlements or military posts. It is the third such death of alleged assailants this week.

October 17, 2008|Ashraf Khalil and Maher Abukhater | Special to The Times

JERUSALEM — Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man Thursday, the third such fatal shooting in the West Bank in recent days amid escalating tensions among soldiers, Jewish settlers and Palestinians.

In three separate incidents since Tuesday, Israeli soldiers have opened fire on Palestinians who they said were about to attack Jewish settlements or military outposts with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Neither Israelis nor Palestinians would comment on whether the shootings -- all near the main West Bank city of Ramallah -- stemmed from any organized militant push or were merely an outgrowth of deteriorating relations between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers.

An Israeli military spokesperson said the army had recently beefed up its "undercover presence" around many settlements to fend off an "increase in firebomb attacks."

Early Thursday morning, Israeli forces opened fire on three men near the village of Kafr Malik, west of Ramallah. The army spokesperson, who requested anonymity, said that all three were carrying firebombs -- two of them already lighted and ready to be thrown.

Aziz Arrar, 20, who was shot in the pelvis, was left bleeding for almost two hours before he could be evacuated, according to Palestinian medical sources. He died in a Ramallah hospital. A second man was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the chest.

The incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday occurred near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, outside Ramallah and near the Palestinian refugee camp of Jalazoun. In each case, the Israelis say that the Palestinians were wielding lighted firebombs, while Palestinians assert that they were only throwing rocks.

On Tuesday, Israeli troops staged what the army spokesperson called "sort of an ambush" on three Palestinian men approaching Beit El, killing Abdul Qader Zeid, a 17-year-old resident of Jalazoun. On Wednesday, camp residents staged a protest that turned violent after Zeid's funeral. The soldiers opened fire again, fatally injuring Mahmoud Ramahi, 22.

Long-simmering tensions between Palestinians and settlers have risen recently around a series of volatile issues, including the spread of unlicensed "outpost" settlements on West Bank hilltops. Settlers have also clashed several times in recent months with Israeli soldiers, amid steady fears that the government is planning to uproot some of the outposts.

Palestinians, meanwhile, remain deeply frustrated that a year of U.S.-backed peace negotiations has yielded no discernible changes in settlement growth.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned what he called heavy-handed Israeli military tactics that undermine the Palestinian Authority's efforts to establish law and order.

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ashraf.khalil@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Khalil reported from Jerusalem and special correspondent Abukhater from Ramallah.

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