Two Palestinians have been killed after hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed Joseph's Tomb near Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
The pair were identified as 21-year-old Ra'ed Hamdan and 20-year-old Ziyad Nuri from the West Bank city of Nablus. They were killed early this morning by the Israeli army near Al-Ghawi junction, east of the city, after soldiers opened fire on their car. According to Quds News Network, the Israeli army then "deliberately crushed" the car with a bulldozer.
According to Wafa, Israeli soldiers also opened fire at a Palestinian ambulance that attempted to attend to the two men, "preventing medics from providing [them with] urgent medical treatment". Hamdan and Nuri were pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Israel subsequently withheld the men's bodies, before eventually releasing them to their families. A general mourning strike has been declared across the city.
The killings came after Israeli soldiers escorted hundreds of illegal settlers to Joseph's Tomb, a historical site which lies deep in the city of Nablus. Despite the fact that, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was handed full control over Area A – which includes Nablus and other major cities like Ramallah and Bethlehem – the Israeli military regularly protects illegal settlers seeking access to the site.
The PA has condemned Israel's killing of the young men, with government spokesman Yousef Al-Mahmoud saying that Israel is deliberately making the situation in the West Bank worse and reiterating calls to provide international protection for Palestinians.
The Israeli army has sought to discredit Hamdan and Nuri, claiming they threw explosives at Israeli soldiers from their car. In a statement issued today, the Israeli army said that "a number of explosives were hurled from a vehicle at Israeli army forces that were securing the entrance of worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus". The statement added: "Israeli army forces responded with live fire toward the vehicle. At the same time, military engineering tools struck the vehicle. As a result, two attackers were killed."
Despite the army's claims that explosives were thrown at its soldiers, there were no Israeli casualties in the incident, Haaretz reported.
Hamdan and Nuri were not the only Palestinians to be killed in the West Bank in recent days. Yesterday Israeli forces shot and killed 19-year-old Omar Amin Abu Laila during a raid on the village of Abwein, north of Ramallah. Wafa reported that "dozens of Israeli armoured vehicles stormed the village, where soldiers surrounded a house after cutting the power lines, and used loudspeakers to call on a person who barricaded himself inside a house, apparently Abu Laila, to surrender and threatened to demolish the structure". The Israeli soldiers then opened fire on the house, killing Abu Laila and injuring nine others who were protesting against the raid.
Israel claims that Abu Laila killed two Israelis near the illegal settlement of Ariel on Sunday. In response, Israel began work on over 800 new settlement units in Ariel, which is built on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Salfit. Israel's Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant and Mayor of Ariel Eli Shaviro yesterday laid the cornerstone of the new settlement project, which is slated to include malls, education facilities and parks for use by illegal settlers only.
Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon – who initiated the umbrella project under which the new units will be built – said that "construction in Ariel will strengthen […] settlement in all of [the occupied West Bank]," adding: "We will continue to build in Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, Alfei Menashe and everywhere in the land of Israel. No terrorist will stop our building momentum."