JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank after a group of youths smashed a hole through the Israeli separation barrier and began throwing objects at police.
The shooting happened in Azariyah, a village just outside of Jerusalem, and marked the latest violence in what has become the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2015. In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, thousands of supporters of the ruling Hamas militant group filled a soccer stadium in a demonstration they said was meant to show solidarity with the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Jewish high holiday season.
Amateur video shared on social media showed a group of masked youths gathered in front of the towering concrete barrier and chanting slogans as they forced their way through a gate.
“Walk forward our popular fans,” they chanted. “A hole in the separation wall, a patrol explodes.”
Israel‘s paramilitary border police said forces shot a protester who attempted to throw a firebomb at them as they came to disperse a demonstration. It said demonstrators threw stones and explosives at them. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the dead youth as 18-year-old Fayez Damdoum.
Israel built the barrier some 20 years ago in what it said was a security measure meant to prevent attackers from entering Israel. But the barrier frequently dips into the West Bank, carving off nearly 10% of its territory. The Palestinians view the structure as an illegal land grab and symbol of Israel‘s 55-year military occupation of the territory.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two areas, which the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Saturday’s killing came at a time of heightened tensions. Israel has been carrying out stepped-up military activity in the West Bank, mostly in the northern cities of Jenin and Nablus, following a series of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring.
In Gaza, thousands of people attended Saturday’s rally, called “Al Aqsa is in danger.” Hamas leaders, including its top official in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, stood on a stage and addressed the crowd.
Hamas has previously threatened violence in response to what it says are “violations” against Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish New Year holiday season. Tens of thousands of Jews visit the city during the holiday, including large numbers of people who visit the contested hilltop compound where the mosque is located.
Jews revere the site as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Jewish Temples, and consider it the holiest site in Judaism. The site is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the competing claims often spill over into violence.
Under longstanding arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the site. However in recent years, the number of visitors has swelled, with some people praying under police protection.
These scenes have raised fears among Palestinians that Israel is plotting to divide or take over the site - a claim Israel denies.
Rawhi Mushtaha, a member of Hamas‘ political bureau, said Israeli practices were endangering the mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
“The practices of the occupation in Al-Aqsa, the West Bank and Palestine herald the great explosion in Al-Aqsa,” he said.
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