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Drone downed, 2 dead in Israeli-Palestinian unrest

An Israeli soldier fires a projectile during clashes in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, following a raid by Israeli forces.. ©AFP

Nablus (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian and Israeli forces battled in the air and on the ground Monday, with a drone downed and missiles fired over Gaza, and two militants killed in the occupied West Bank in what the army called a raid targeting gun attack suspects.

Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip said they fired missiles at an Israeli warplane after it shot their drone down.

The violence followed a weekend of deadly incidents which ended a relative calm since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan 10 days ago.

France's foreign minister discussed the "deterioration of the situation in the West Bank and rising tensions in Jerusalem" in a phone call with her Israeli counterpart, the French foreign ministry said.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, "two martyrs (were) shot by the occupation", the Palestinian health ministry said.It later named them as Mohammed Abu Bakr and Mohammed al-Hallaq, without giving their ages.

At their funeral processions, an AFP journalist saw thousands of Palestinians, among them dozens of masked, armed men, march through the streets of Nablus, parading their bodies.Gunshots were fired in the air.

Local militant group the Lions' Den claimed the two men as members and confirmed in a statement that its fighters had been involved in "confronting the (Israeli) occupation forces' storming of the city of Nablus".

The Israeli army said it carried out the raid to apprehend two individuals linked to a shooting attack last month in which two Israeli soldiers were injured in the West Bank town of Huwara.

"During the activity, a number of armed gunmen fired at the forces who responded with live fire," the army statement said.

Two people were arrested, it added.

Israeli forces have carried out regular raids in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War -- including several in the militant stronghold of Nablus, where the Lions' Den emerged over the past months.

Gaza missiles

The Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, said in a statement that it "mourns the martyrdom of two Palestinian freedom fighters" in what it called Israel's "storming" of Nablus.

Hamas said it had fired "a number of surface-to-air missiles" at an Israeli war plane after it shot down one of the group's drones.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military confirmed to AFP that "a number of shoulder-fired missiles were launched toward the fighter jet", adding that "no injuries were reported and no damage was done".

After a relative lull in violence since Ramadan began on March 23, three Israelis were injured in a ramming attack in the West Bank on Saturday. 

Soldiers killed the alleged perpetrator. 

Less than 24 hours earlier, Israeli police shot dead an Arab Israeli who they alleged had grabbed a policeman's gun and fired it in the Israeli-annexed Old City of Jerusalem.

His family disputed this version of events.

During a phone call, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna reminded her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen of "the necessity of refraining from all unilateral measures, particularly in the matter of settlements", the foreign ministry in Paris said.

It also cited the need to "respect the commitments" made last month in Egypt, and the previous month in Jordan, when Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed to restore calm.

The West Bank is home to hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers who live in state-approved settlements considered illegal under international law.

About 230,000 Israelis live in annexed east Jerusalem, along with at least 360,000 Palestinians who want to make the sector the capital of their future state.

But Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been stalled since 2014.

Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of at least 91 Palestinians, 15 Israelis and one Ukranian, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.

These figures include, on the Palestinian side, combatants and civilians, including minors, and on the Israeli side, mostly civilians including minors and two members of the Arab minority.

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