NABLUS, West Bank, (Reuters) – Israeli troops shot dead a 14-year-old Palestinian near Nablus on Saturday and said he was holding a petrol bomb in an area of the West Bank where Arabs and Jewish settlers have clashed violently this month.
An army spokeswoman said the soldiers fired in self-defence near the settlement of Yitzhar, whose residents were last week accused by Israel’s prime minister of mounting a “pogrom” on a nearby Palestinian village after a Jewish child was stabbed.
Palestinians from Asira al-Kabaliya, where settlers went on a rampage last Saturday, named the dead youth as 14-year-old Suhaib Saleh. They added that his brother was also shot dead at Yitzhar six years ago after he had wounded two Israeli soldiers.
No witness accounts from Palestinians were available of Saturday’s incident. The Israeli army spokeswoman, who also gave Saleh’s age as 14, said soldiers opened fire when he was some 30 metres (yards) from them, holding a lighted bottle of fuel.
At a Nablus hospital, Palestinian doctor Samir Abu Zarour, as well as a Reuters photographer who viewed the body, said they saw no sign of burns on it. Abu Zarour said Saleh was killed by two bullets to the chest. He was also hit once in the leg.
Some half a million Jewish Israelis live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem alongside about 2.5 million Arabs, a tense relationship marked by occasional violence.
On Sept. 13 dozens of settlers, some firing guns, assaulted Palestinians and damaged houses in Asira al-Kabaliya after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a 9-year-old boy in a Jewish outpost. Three Palestinians were shot and wounded in the settlers’ attack, medical officials said.
“In the State of Israel, there will be no pogroms against non-Jews,” Olmert told his cabinet the following day, employing a word normally applied to attacks on Jews in tsarist Russia.
Since Israel seized the West Bank in 1967, still-growing Jewish settlements, protected by troops and a web of roadblocks and checkpoints, have been blamed by Palestinians for stealing their land and other resources and dislocating their society.
Israel complains that Palestinian violence, including attacks on its cities, has thwarted its offers of land for peace — though successive governments, including Olmert’s, have made clear they want to keep many of the biggest settlements in the West Bank under any deal to establish a Palestinian state.
Israel’s Western allies regard the settlements as illegal under international law and the United States has called them a barrier to peace as it makes another push for a peace deal before President George W. Bush leaves office in January.