RAMALLAH, (Reuters) – Israeli troops killed a Palestinian protester in the West Bank on Friday and a Jewish security guard shot dead a Palestinian who infiltrated a Jewish settlement, also in the occupied area.
Palestinian hospital officials said a 30-year-old man died of a wound to the chest during a protest at the village of Bilin, site of almost weekly protests against the separation barrier which Israel is building in the Palestinian territory.
Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, a witness who took part in the protest, said Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh, a distant relative, was talking to soldiers when troops fired teargas grenades at protesters. “Basem was in the front line of the protest and soldiers fired tear gas at us and one hit Basem in the chest. He was about 40 metres (yards) away from the soldiers. There was no stone-throwing when Basem was shot,” Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said some 100 protesters had thrown stones and other objects at soldiers and tried to damage the barrier in a protest that the military had declared illegal.
“We received a report of a Palestinian civilian in his 30s who was hit in the chest and died in a Ramallah hospital. The (Israeli armed forces) are investigating,” the spokeswoman said. She added that a senior Israeli military officer in the area had requested Palestinian cooperation for a joint investigation into the death. She said troops had tried to disperse the crowd using rubber bullets and teargas.
Israel says the barrier, which when completed will stretch for over 720 km (430 miles), is meant to keep out suicide bombers. It is made of wire fence and concrete walls.
Palestinians call it collective punishment and a land grab that denies them territory they want for a future state. The World Court in The Hague ruled in 2004 that building the barrier was illegal.
The barrier in Bilin cuts some 3 km (2 miles) into the village, separating some farmers from their fields.
Earlier on Friday a Palestinian with a knife infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the southern part of the occupied West Bank and was shot dead by a security guard, the Israeli army said.
The Palestinian, described by Israeli media as being in his 20s, had “planned to carry out a terrorist attack” in Beit Haggai, a military spokeswoman said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from armed Palestinian factions.
A Beit Haggai settler who gave his name as Uziel told Army Radio that he and a neighbour were on a security patrol when they spotted the Palestinian walking among the houses. “My friend asked him who he was, and the man drew a knife,” Uziel said. “My friend took my gun and killed the terrorist.”
Palestinians have been seeking a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the late 1980s but progress has been slow.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell was in the region on Friday to sound out the sides on prospects for a two-state peace accord.