Palestinian gunmen shot an Israeli army officer to death near Manger Square in Bethlehem tonight and Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians, including an 8-year-old boy, in operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian media reports and Israeli officials.
The shooting incidents occurred as the Israeli military imposed stringent crackdowns on Palestinian travel within the West Bank and Gaza Strip on one of Islam's most important holidays, Eid al-Adha. Israeli officials said the routinely tight restrictions on Palestinian movements were increased because of intelligence warnings of potential attacks inside Israel.
The additional restrictions on a day when Muslim families traditionally gather for large family meals and social activities with neighbors and friends roiled Palestinians, according to Palestinian residents contacted by telephone in several West Bank cities and in Gaza.
Israeli soldiers were attempting to explode an abandoned automobile near Manger Square in Bethlehem tonight when Palestinian gunmen drove past them in a car and opened fire, according to Palestinian news reports. A young army officer was shot in the neck and died, according to Israeli officials. The army launched a search for the assailants and imposed a curfew throughout the city.
Manger Square is bordered by the Church of the Nativity, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.
Three Palestinians were killed in separate incidents. The 8-year-old boy was killed in Qalqilyah on the central western edge of the West Bank when soldiers opened fire during a raid on houses adjacent to the Abu Bakkar mosque, Palestinian media reported. Nine other Palestinians were injured in the shooting, according to news reports.
The Israeli military said the boy had been lobbing fire bombs at soldiers.
Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus shot and killed a Palestinian they said was a suspected militant, the military said. And near the Kisufim crossing into Israel in the southeastern Gaza Strip, soldiers shot dead a Palestinian who army officials said was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest.