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Deadly raid could derail Israeli-Palestinian talks

August 26, 2013|By Edmund Sanders and Maher Abukhater
  • Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of three men who were killed during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank's Kalandia refugee camp on Monday.
Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of three men who were killed during… (Ahmad Gharabli / Agence…)

JERUSALEM — Palestinians warned Monday that newly restarted peace talks could be derailed after a deadly clash between Palestinian refugees and Israeli security forces.

Three Palestinians were shot and killed at the Kalandia refugee camp near Jerusalem. Israeli security forces say they fired in self-defense after a predawn raid to arrest a suspected militant sparked a riot among residents.

It was the deadliest such clash since 2009, when three Palestinians were killed in Nablus during a standoff against Israeli soldiers attempting to arrest them.

Nabil abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Monday’s incident would cause “negative repercussions” to the peace process.

But neither he nor Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, who appeared at a news conference Monday with the visiting Egyptian foreign minister, would comment on a media report that Palestinians had canceled a negotiating session that was scheduled to take place Monday in the West Bank city of Jericho.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the report.

A statement by the Palestine Liberation Organization said Israel’s actions “undermine international and American efforts to make the talks successful.”

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said: “Israel’s use of excessive and indiscriminate violence and live ammunition in densely populated civilian areas represents a blatant violation of international and humanitarian law.”

Israeli officials defended their action, saying police and soldiers came under attack by hundreds of Palestinians, who threw rocks, pieces of cement and Molotov cocktails.

Israel Defense Forces officials said its soldiers were summoned to the camp to rescue a squad of security officers who had been overwhelmed by Palestinians.

“The riot got so large and violent that it became vital that the IDF assist in containing it,’’ said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman. “The large, violent crowds, which significantly outnumbered the security forces, left no other choice but to resort to live fire in self-defense.”

Palestinian witnesses said the raid began at 3 a.m. as an undercover operation to re-arrest a Fatah militant who had recently been released from an Israeli prison.

“We did not take the matter seriously at first,’’ said a Kalandia resident who did not want to be identified for fear of Israeli retribution. “We have army raids in the camp almost every night and so we are used to this.”

But once word of the operation spread, the camp erupted in chaos, he said.

Israel officials said they arrested their target but declined to identify him.

Those killed were identified by hospital officials as Younis Jahjouh, 23; Rubin Fayez Zaydeh, 35; and Jihad Aslan, 17.

Following their burials Monday, skirmishes erupted at the Kalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem. Youths threw rocks and burned tires, while Israeli soldiers fired tear gas.

The number of Palestinians killed by Israel security forces has more than tripled this year over last; including Monday’s deaths, 13 Palestinians have been killed in 2013, compared with four for the same period in 2012.

In a similar clash last week, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian man in the Jenin refugee camp after a riot erupted when the army entered the camp to arrest a suspected militant. Another fatality occurred south of Hebron in July.

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edmund.sanders@latimes.com

Twitter: @edmundsanders

Special correspondent Maher Abukhater reported from Kalandia, West Bank.

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