BALA, West Bank — Two Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli soldiers in 24 hours of raging Palestinian protests and harsh Israeli countermeasures as security officials on both sides expressed fears Monday that tensions could spiral out of control.
One of those killed Monday was a Palestinian teen, Abdul Rahman Obeidallah, who died in the hospital after being shot by Israeli forces during a clash in Bethlehem, Palestinian medics in the West Bank said.
Media accounts differed on the age of the youth, saying he was 13 or 15. His family told local reporters that he was not participating in the protests.
An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said soldiers fired 22-caliber rifle rounds at “a main instigator” at a riot near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.
Israeli military officials could not say whether a youth who was hit was the one who died at the hospital.
The protesters were throwing rocks, not bottles of flaming gasoline as other demonstrators have, raising questions again about Israel’s use of deadly force. Israel is investigating the shooting.
An 18-year-old Palestinian, Othman Suliman, was killed Sunday night at another violent demonstration, one of many across the West Bank, according to a doctor at Tulkarem hospital in the northern West Bank where the clash took place.
At his funeral, Suliman’s cousin Hassan Theeb said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has made sure that the Arab world will do nothing, but he forgot about the Palestinian people who will defend their mosque with their blood and soul.”
He said his cousin’s death “was a gift to the world.”
Palestinian mourners said it was outrageous that the youths were shot dead for throwing stones. They complained about Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank but also the weakness of their own leaders. Several men suggested that it was time for a third uprising against Israel.
Israeli authorities say rocks can and do kill, and they recently decided that rock-throwers should be sentenced to minimum mandatory sentences of four years. In the violent demonstration where Suliman was shot, Israeli officials said the protesters also threw gasoline bombs.
Four Israeli civilians have also been killed since Thursday.
An Israeli couple were gunned down in their car as their four children sat in the back seat. The children were not physically harmed.
Israeli security officials on Monday said they had arrested five members of a Hamas-affiliated cell responsible for that attack — the leader of the cell, a spotter, a driver and two gunmen. Lerner, the Israeli military spokesman, said that the suspects had confessed their involvement and that their choice of target was random, though the location had been scouted.
The gunmen shot at the car and when it stopped continued firing at Eitam Henkin, a rabbi, and his wife, Naama. At that point, Lerner said, one of the assailants shot the other by accident, wounding his hand. The gunman dropped his weapon, covered with forensic evidence.
“If they hadn’t shot one another by mistake, we don’t know whether they would have shot the four children,” Lerner said. “It caused the incident to end quicker than planned.”
Hamas and its military wing issued statements supporting the killings of the Henkins but did not take responsibility. The militant Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip, called it a “heroic operation.”
On Saturday, an off-duty Israeli soldier in civilian clothes was stabbed to death in the Old City, alongside a well-known rabbi who rushed to his side.
Their assailant was shot dead by police, as was another Palestinian who allegedly slashed at an Israeli teen with a knife. The death of that Palestinian was captured on a video that showed a crowd of Israelis shouting at police, “Shoot him!”
The spike in violence prompted the Israeli government to take the unprecedented step Sunday of barring Palestinians from entering the Old City for the final 48 hours of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ended Monday night.
Netanyahu, promising “an all-out war against Palestinian terrorism,” deployed thousands of soldiers and police officers in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also ordered the demolition of the family homes where the Palestinian assailants lived.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 465 Palestinians had been injured by tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds since Friday.
Booth reported from Jaffa.