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West Bank violence kills Palestinian teen, British Israeli mother

Tensions have flared into bloodshed since last week, as the Muslim holy month coincides with Passover and Easter. ©AFP

Jericho (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - The Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Monday claimed the lives of a Palestinian teenager and a British-Israeli mother who succumbed to injuries from a West Bank gun attack that earlier killed her two daughters.

Tensions have flared into bloodshed since last week, with heavy clashes, shootings, rocket strikes and a car-ramming attack marring a period when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.

And on Monday several ministers from Israel's hard-right government joined a protest march by Jewish settlers, held under tight security in the north of the occupied West Bank.

In the latest West Bank shooting, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager and wounded two other people, the Palestinian health ministry said, during what the army described as a raid to arrest a "terror suspect".

Mohammed Fayez Balhan, 15, died after being shot "with live occupation (Israeli) bullets in the head, chest and abdomen", the ministry said, having earlier reported that two others were injured by Israeli bullets.

The Israeli army confirmed its forces were operating in the Aqabat Jaber camp, the site of previous deadly Israeli raids this year, near Jericho, where soldiers were seeking "to apprehend a terror suspect".

The army said troops responded with live fire after "suspects opened fire toward (soldiers), hurled explosive devices and Molotov cocktails".

They added that a suspect was taken in by security forces.

Clashes erupted when the army entered the camp and surrounded several houses, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.A Palestinian security official told AFP that five individuals were arrested during the raid.

The Palestinian armed movement Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip said it mourned the "young martyr" Balhan and praised those "who are standing up to this arrogant enemy".

British-Israeli mother dies

The operation came as a Jerusalem hospital confirmed that a British-Israeli woman, Lucy (Leah) Dee, had died after being seriously injured in a shooting attack Friday in the West Bank that killed her two daughters, aged 16 and 20.

Their car came under fire in the Jordan Valley, where Jericho is also located.The families were residents of Efrat, an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted: "There can be no justification for the murder of Leah and her two daughters, Maia and Rina."

"We will continue to work with the Israeli authorities to end this senseless violence," he added.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in Israeli-approved settlements there which are considered illegal under international law.

Hundreds of Israelis marched Monday in the north of the West Bank, pushing for state approval of an Israeli settler outpost.

Several government ministers -- including Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir -- appeared at the march to Eviatar, whose residents agreed to leave in 2021 while officials examined their case.

Demonstrators of all ages waved Israeli flags as they rallied along closed-off roads.

Addressing the crowd, Ben-Gvir said "the response to terror is to build" settlements. 

Rivka Katzir, a 74-year-old resident of Elkana, another West Bank settlement, told AFP "the one solution for this problem is if we settle this place".

Surging violence

The latest surge in unrest comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, late last month, a "pause" for dialogue on judicial reform legislation which split the nation and caused divisions in his government.

Violence has flared anew since Israeli police last Wednesday stormed the prayer hall of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque -- Islam's third-holiest site -- in a pre-dawn raid aimed at dislodging "law-breaking youths and masked agitators" they said had barricaded themselves inside.

The next day, more than 30 rockets were fired from Lebanese soil into Israel, an attack which the Israeli army blamed on Palestinian groups, saying it was most likely Hamas.

Israel then bombarded Gaza and southern Lebanon, targeting "terror infrastructures" that it said belonged to Hamas.

Late Friday an Italian tourist was killed and seven others wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army also said it launched strikes on targets in Syria Sunday morning, after rockets fired from there landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The conflict has this year claimed the lives of at least 94 Palestinians, 19 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian, according to an AFP count based on Israeli and Palestinian official sources.

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

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