Ramallah Raid – Israelis Kill Two Palestinians

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ISRAELI forces shot dead two Palestinians during an arrest raid near Ramallah in the central West Bank early Monday, onlookers and medical officials said.

Witnesses said that soldiers stormed Qalandiyah refugee camp at dawn and as they ransacked homes, confrontations erupted between the army and local residents.

The soldiers began to shoot indiscriminately and 22-year-old Mutasim Issa Udwan sustained a gunshot wound to the head.

He died immediately. Another young man, Ali Khalifa, was shot in the stomach and died in hospital in Ramallah.

A third young man, identified as Maamoon Awwad, suffered a back injury.

The two who were killed were Palestinian military intelligence officers, according to locals.

Medical sources in Ramallah hospital confirmed two young men were killed, yet they did not give further details.

The soldiers eventually detained two men, Wajih Ayman Al-Khatib and Anas Manasrah.

Witnesses said the invading troops ransacked several homes during the operation which lasted a few hours.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that a riot broke out during a ‘routine arrest procedure’.

Soldiers opened fire after five soldiers were injured by stones, she added.

The raid drew swift condemnation from Palestinian officials.

President Mahmud Abbas denounced the deadly operation, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

He told government media that the early-morning raid amounted to ‘an Israeli escalation attempt to cripple the Palestinians’ September bid’ for recognition of statehood at the United Nations.

‘The Israeli government is responsible for this escalation,’ he added.

Meanwhile, the Israeli and Lebanese armies exchanged gunfire early Monday across their shared border, security officials and media reports said.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said soldiers traded fire in the Mount Dov region on the border.

Initial reports said a Lebanese soldier died following the exchange but neither side reported casualties later Monday.

The Israeli military said its troops had been fired upon as they worked on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, the UN-drawn border with Lebanon.

But a Lebanese army official said troops opened fire only when Israeli soldiers crossed the border line, which was established in 2000.

Both sides have challenged the accuracy of the Blue Line in several locations.

‘Earlier this morning an IDF force carrying out a routine patrol within Israeli territory near the Israel-Lebanon border was fired upon from the direction of Lebanon,’ an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

‘The force responded by firing towards the source of fire and UNIFIL was informed of the incident,’ she added, referring to the UN peacekeeping force stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

An Israeli military official said the incident occurred near the Dan kibbutz in the far north of Israel as troops carried out work on a border fence.

Another stressed that ‘Israel’s interest at this time is to contain the situation and maintain the calm on the border.’

A Lebanese army official, who declined to be identified, said the incident occurred early on Monday when ‘an Israeli patrol in the Wazzani area crossed the Blue Line and went beyond it about 30 metres.

‘Lebanese troops stationed in the area fired warning shots,’ he said. ‘The Israeli patrol retreated and then fired at Lebanese army posts.’

He said there were no injuries on the Lebanese side and that UNIFIL was informed of the incident and quickly moved to the area.

UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh confirmed that the incident had occurred, but gave no details on whether Israeli troops had crossed the Blue Line.

‘We can confirm that at around 7.00am this morning there was a brief exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the Israeli army along the Blue Line in the general area of Wazzani,’ Singh said.

‘UNIFIL peacekeepers immediately responded to the location in order to contain the situation and prevent any escalation. The firing has since ceased and the situation in the area is quiet. No casualties have been reported.’

Singh said UNIFIL had opened an investigation into the shooting.

Monday’s incident, which came as Lebanon marks Army Day, came almost exactly a year after Lebanese and Israeli troops traded fire along the tense border, leaving two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist killed along with a senior Israeli officer.

The flare-up in violence was the worst clash between the two sides since Israel’s devastating 2006 war in Lebanon against the Shi’ite Hezbollah militia.

l Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ordered the creation of a task force charged with finding ways to alleviate the cost of living, a day after huge protests.

At least 100,000 people took to the streets in cities across Israel on Saturday night in the latest show of force by a protest movement that has exposed deep anger in society about the cost of living and income disparity.

At the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he would name ‘a team of ministers who will set up a round-table discussion with representatives of various sectors to allow them to share their concerns’.

‘The ministers will be charged with creating a practical plan to ease the financial burden on Israeli citizens, which will be presented to the Israeli government for approval and implementation,’ his office said in a statement.

‘We must act seriously and responsibly to effect changes in economic priorities and tackle real hardships,’ Netanyahu said.

It seemed unlikely that the announcement would be enough to ease anger in the short term and damp down protests over the cost of everything from housing to child care.

Even as Netanyahu met with his cabinet, members of the Israeli Medical Association doctors’ union gathered outside parliament as part of their ongoing protest in support of better wages and working conditions.

The protests are the largest demonstrations over social issues that Israel has seen at least since the early 1970s when thousands of people, led by a group called the Black Panthers, took to the streets to protest against racial discrimination suffered by Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern descent.

The gaps between Israel’s rich and poor are among the widest in the Western world. In 2011, Israel ranked fifth for unequal income distribution among the 34 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.