Mourners bury Palestinian killed by Israeli settlers

BURQAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP): Mourners on Saturday attended the funeral of a Palestinian killed by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, after the UN warned of a dramatic spike in such cases.

The Palestinian health ministry in a statement late Friday announced the death of Qusai Jamal Maatan, 19, saying he was “shot dead by settlers in the village of Burqa,” east of Ramallah.

At the funeral procession, Maatan was wrapped in a black and white keffiyeh head covering and Palestinian flag. Mourners carried his body through the village streets before his burial, said an AFP journalist at the scene.

Since early last year, the West Bank has seen a string of attacks by Palestinians on Israeli targets, as well as violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian communities and regular raids by Israeli forces who say they are pursuing militants.

In a statement Saturday, the Israeli army cited Palestinian reports and witnesses as saying clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli civilians who were herding sheep near Burqa village.

Both sides threw rocks, the Palestinians let off fireworks and “Israeli civilians shot toward the Palestinians,” the army said.

“As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burned. Several Israeli civilians were injured from rocks hurled at them,” it said, adding security forces arrived after the shooting.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is home to nearly three million Palestinians and around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.

The last major case of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians occurred in June.

Revenge attacks on the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya and others followed the killing of four Israelis by Palestinian gunmen, which militant group Hamas said was in response to an Israeli army raid on Jenin refugee camp which killed six Palestinians.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA on Friday said it had recorded 591 settler-related “incidents” in the West Bank in the first six months of 2023 resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both.

“That’s an average of 99 incidents every month, and a 39-percent-increase compared with the monthly average of the whole of 2022, which is 71,” spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

Also on Friday, the Palestinian health ministry said Israeli soldiers shot dead Mahmoud Abu Saan, 18, in the West Bank community of Tulkarm. The Israeli army said “suspects fired and hurled explosives and stones” at patrolling soldiers “who responded with live fire.”

Friday’s killings came three days after a Palestinian gunman wounded six people in a shooting at an Israeli settlement in the West Bank before being shot dead himself.