Gunfire and clashes with Israeli troops left two Palestinians dead and three wounded at a Palestinian refugee camp near Jerusalem early Monday, a Palestinian health official said.
According to Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Awawdeh, a 21-year-old and a 28-year-old were killed during an exchange of gunfire between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops at the Qalandia refugee camp. The camp straddles the area between the West Bank and Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.
The Israeli military said troops entered Qalandia to demolish the home of a Palestinian who the army says shot and killed an Israeli motorist in the West Bank this summer. The motorist had stopped to give the Palestinian directions to a nearby spring.
The presence of Israeli troops in the camp carrying out the demolition spurred Monday’s clashes. The army said Palestinians opened fire at the Israeli forces and they returned fire at the attackers. Three “hits” were confirmed, the military said, without elaborating.
It was unclear if a third Palestinian was killed. Palestinian officials said one Palestinian was taken into Israeli custody. Military spokeswoman Libby Weiss said troops had made no arrests at the scene.
Hundreds of Palestinians threw firebombs and rocks at Israeli forces while they were demolishing the home, and troops fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters, the military said.
The latest killings come amid a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the last two months. Palestinian attacks, mainly stabbings, have killed 14 Israelis, and at least 83 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 53 Israel says were involved in assaults. The rest were killed in clashes with security forces.
In recent days, Israel has renewed a policy of demolishing homes belonging to Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis. On Saturday, Israel demolished three homes in the West Bank belonging to attackers who killed an Israeli couple in front of their children in the West Bank on October 1. Also that day, the military demolished a fourth home belonging to a man who killed an Israeli on his way home from a basketball game.
Israel says home demolition is a legal and effective tool to deter attacks, but critics say the tactic amounts to collective punishment.