Israel forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank as deadly start to 2023 continues
Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The killings continued the trend of 2022, which was the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005.
Fears of a military escalation in the territory have been sparked by the inauguration in late December of the most extreme-right government in Israel's history, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinian health ministry said that Habib Kamil, 25, and Abdulhadi Nazal, 18, were killed by live Israeli bullets in the town of Qabatiya near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
The Israeli army alleged that during a raid to arrest a suspect in Qabatiya, "the wanted suspect and an additional suspect fled the scene".
In ensuing fighting, Israeli soldiers shot two other Palestinians, the statement said.
The West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians.
An estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers now also live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law.
Earlier in the day, the Palestinian health ministry announced that 41-year-old Samir Aouni Harbi Aslan was killed "by a bullet of the Israeli occupation army" in Qalandia refugee camp, near Ramallah.
'Don't be afraid'
Azzam Abdel Qader, who witnessed the raid, said Aslan was shot on the balcony of his home as his son was being detained.
"He shouted at the soldiers and said to his son: 'Don't be afraid'," Qader told AFP.
"After that, stones were being thrown at the occupation soldiers in the neighbourhood, so the soldiers started shooting randomly."
The Israeli military said troops had fired on people who "hurled rocks and blocks from the rooftops aiming at soldiers operating beneath".
Mourners gathered in Qalandia for the funeral of Aslan, the third Palestinian killed in the West Bank in 24 hours.
The Qabatia deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since the start of the year to nine.
Eighteen people were arrested in raids overnight Wednesday-Thursday across the West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group said.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old Palestinian who had allegedly knifed an Israeli near a settlement in the southern West Bank was shot dead.
2022 was one of the deadliest years for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, especially children.— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 31, 2022
According to several NGOs, Israeli forces killed more Palestinian children in the Occupied Territories in 2022 since the UN first started recording fatalities in 2006. pic.twitter.com/uZcdgHHU2a
The incident followed Israeli troops killing a Palestinian during a raid by the forces into the northern city of Nablus.
His funeral on Thursday drew hundreds of mourners, who gathered in the city hours after another incursion by Israeli forces.
Two Palestinian journalists were among those wounded during the raid.
The military said Israeli forces shot at people when the troops came under fire while arresting a Palestinian.
Israeli army raids have surged in the West Bank since 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 the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation.