Israel forces kill Palestinian child in Bethlehem

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces killed a child in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported, as Israel claimed police officers fired at people who threw Molotov cocktails.

The Ministry of Health announced “the death of the boy Adam Essam Shaker Ayyad, 15 years old, with a bullet in the chest fired by the occupation troops during the attack on Bethlehem at dawn today.”

The Israeli army said the stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at border police officers during an operation in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.

“The forces fired at the Molotov (sic) cocktail launchers who risked their lives, the hits have been identified,” the army said in a statement.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported that clashes broke out as Israeli forces entered Dheisheh, in the southern occupied West Bank, to search houses.

Ayyad is the third Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

Two Palestinian men were shot dead in the northern city of Jenin on Monday, when clashes broke out as the army demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli soldier in September 2022.

More than 150 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed last year in Israel and the West Bank, including Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, according to an AFP tally.

In December, the United Nations said 2022 was the deadliest year in Judea and Samaria since its records began in 2005.

The inauguration last week of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has raised fears of a military escalation in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Two of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners have taken over powers critical of the West Bank.

Bezalel Smotrich holds the portfolio for Israeli settlement policy in the territory, while Itamar Ben-Gvir serves as national security minister with powers over the border police force operating there.

Both have a history of inflammatory comments about the Palestinians.

The visit of the Israeli far-right minister is considered a new provocation
Earlier today, Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the compound housing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a move condemned by Palestinians as provocative and, despite warnings, could lead to to violence.

The Ynet news website published photos of Ben-Gvir touring the site under heavy security. The complex is the third holiest site in Islam after Makkah and Medina and the holiest in Judaism, a remnant of two ancient temples of the faith.

Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would trigger violence.

Only Muslims are allowed to worship at the site, and there was no indication that Ben-Gvir prayed during his visit.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist minister Ben-Gvir and considers it an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”

Ben-Gvir was sworn in last week as part of a new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that includes far-right and religious parties.

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