RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank on Friday, according to his brother, who said he was walking home when a bullet struck him in the head as Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian youths.
In a separate development, Israel approved an additional 1,500 work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, less than two weeks after the territory’s militant Hamas rulers sat out the latest round of violence.
Salah Sawafta, 58, was shot in the head as he was returning home from dawn prayers in the West Bank village of Tubas, according to his brother, Jehad.
“There were clashes with youths in the area and Salah was shot by a sniper in the head after he bought a bag of bread from a grocery store,” he said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said he died after being brought to a local hospital in critical condition.
The Israeli military said its troops entered two villages to arrest Palestinians suspected of taking part in or planning attacks. It said Palestinians hurled firebombs and opened fire at the soldiers, who shot back. It said “a hit was identified,” without elaborating.
Israeli forces carry out near-daily raids in the West Bank, including in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, which often ignite violent confrontations with stone-throwing Palestinians or gunmen.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for a future state. Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, and the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority two years later.
Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller battles, and Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on the territory. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from re-arming, while critics view it as a form of collective punishment of Gaza’s more than 2 million Palestinian residents.
Israel has taken steps to ease the blockade over the past year as part of understandings with Hamas aimed at preserving calm, including issuing thousands of permits for Palestinian laborers from Gaza to work inside Israel. The latest increase brings the total number of permits to 15,500.
That likely factored into Hamas’ decision to stay out of the most recent fighting, which began when Israel launched a wave of airstrikes against what it said was an imminent threat from Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed group in Gaza.
An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire ended three days of heavy fighting in which Israel carried out waves of airstrikes against what it said were militant targets and Islamic Jihad fired some 1,100 rockets at Israel. The fighting killed at least 49 Palestinians, including 17 children, as well as more than a dozen militants. No Israelis were killed or seriously wounded.