Israel forces kill Palestinian child in Bethlehem

A freedom fighter attends the funeral of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman, who was martyred by Israeli forces, in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. — Reuters/File

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces killed a child in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday, the Palestinian health ministry reported, as Israel claimed police officers fired on the people throwing Molotov cocktails.

The health ministry announced “the death of a child Adam Essam Shaker Ayyad, aged 15, with a bullet in the chest fired by the occupying troops during the aggression on Bethlehem at dawn today.”

Israel’s military said that the rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at border police officers during an operation in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp.

“The forces fired toward Molotov cocktails (sic) hurlers who risked their lives, hits were identified,” the army said in a statement.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported clashes erupted when Israeli forces entered Dheisheh, in the southern occupied West Bank, to search houses.

Ayyad is the third Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of this year.

On Monday two Palestinian men were shot dead in the northern city of Jenin, when clashes broke out as the army demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli soldier in September 2022.

More than 150 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed last year across Israel and the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, according to an AFP tally.

In December, the United Nations said 2022 was the deadliest year in the West Bank since its records began in 2005.

The inauguration last week of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has sparked fears of a military escalation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Two of Netanyahu’s extreme-right coalition partners have taken charge of critical powers regarding the West Bank.

Bezalel Smotrich holds the portfolio for Israeli settlement policy in the territory, while Itamar Ben-Gvir serves as national security minister with powers over the border police force which operate there.

Both have a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians.

Israeli far-right minister visit observed as a fresh provocation

Earlier today, Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a move condemned by Palestinians as provocative and despite warnings it could lead to violence.

The Ynet news website carried pictures of Ben-Gvir touring the site under heavy security. The compound is Islam’s third holiest site after Makkah and Madinah and Judaism’s most sacred, a vestige of two ancient temples of the faith.

Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would spark violence.

Only Muslim worship is allowed at the site, and there was no indication that Ben-Gvir had prayed during his visit.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the storming of Al-Aqsa mosque by the extremist minister Ben-Gvir and views it as an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”

Ben-Gvir was sworn in last week as part of a new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that includes far-right and religious parties.

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