Palestinian teen claimed by militant group as a fighter is killed in Israeli army raid in West Bank

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli security forces stormed into a town in the north of the West Bank on Tuesday, leading to fighting that killed a 17-year-old Palestinian, according to Palestinian health officials, the latest violence to grip the occupied territory.

Israel also released the results Tuesday of a military investigation into the death of a soldier killed during its major raid into the Jenin refugee camp last month, concluding that the soldier was killed by a bullet fired by Israeli forces.

Before dawn Tuesday, the Israeli military conducted an arrest raid in the town of Zababdeh south of Jenin, local medics said. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 17-year-old Othman Abu Kharj was fatally shot in the head. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group claimed Abu Kharj as a fighter.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces were still searching for the Palestinian gunman who carried out a shooting in the northern Palestinian city of Hawara that killed an Israeli father and son on Saturday.

The army said its forces arrested 15 Palestinian suspects in several northern West Bank towns. In Zababdeh, Israeli security forces said they opened fire at those who threw explosive devices at them.

In the southern West Bank, the Israeli army captured two Palestinians who were suspected of carrying out a shooting attack the day before that killed an Israeli woman and seriously wounded a man near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

While recently the vast majority of Palestinian attacks have been concentrated in the northern West Bank, the latest shooting reveals that Palestinian militancy is “spreading to other areas in the center and southern regions,” wrote Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, describing an explosive mix of forces that risks amplifying the surge in violence.

Revenge attacks by Jewish terrorists only intensify the mounting tensions,” he wrote, referring to the rise in Jewish settler attacks on Palestinians. “The fact there are Cabinet ministers and members of Knesset from the coalition who openly encourage such acts only adds fuel to the fire.”

The Israeli military said it confiscated the rifle used to shoot at the victim's car and that the two suspects had confessed to their involvement during interrogation. A car without a license plate that was allegedly used to carry out the attack was found burned north of Hebron, said mayor of the town of Halhoul.

Palestinian media identified the two suspects arrested near Hebron as Saqer and Muhamad al-Shantir.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has come under pressure from coalition members that want to exert more control over the occupied West Bank and take harsher measures against Palestinians.

In response to the spasm of violence, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered authorities to ensure that the family members of the Palestinians who carried out the deadly shooting in Hebron were banned from obtaining entry permits into Israel, where day wages are roughly double what laborers typically earn in the West Bank.

The Israeli military said that overnight, its forces conducted large-scale searches and arrest raids throughout the West Bank, interrogating 20 Palestinians, confiscating illegal vehicles and arresting an additional 13 suspects near Hebron.

Separately, the Israeli army said that after probing the death of soldier David Yehuda Yizhak during a devastating two-day raid into the Jenin refugee camp on July 3, it determined that he had been struck by so-called friendly fire. The raid — the biggest such operation into the occupied West Bank in nearly two decades — killed 12 Palestinians in addition to the Israeli soldier, wounded dozens of other camp residents and left a trail of destruction.

The Israeli military described Yizhak's death as an “incident of mistaken identification" that occurred when a soldier thought he spotted a “suspicious figure” in a nearby building as troops were leaving the militarized refugee camp. The army said the investigation revealed flaws in the process of withdrawing from the Jenin camp, without elaborating.

Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since the start of this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone throwing youths protesting the incursions and those not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Some 30 people have been killed by Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that time.

Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces, inspire more militancy and entrench Israeli control over lands they seek for a hoped-for future state. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.