RAMALLAH – Israeli soldiers killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in a raid on a West Bank camp on Monday, amid larger skirmishes during a settler march and a mass entry into Al-Aqsa Mosque grounds.
According to Palestinian medical authorities, Mohammed Balhan was killed when Israeli forces attacked the West Bank village of Aqabat Jaber near Jericho. During the battles, Balhan was shot three times in the head, abdomen, and pelvis.
Two other individuals were shot in the lower body, and five other citizens were apprehended.
This year, the Israeli army has killed 96 Palestinians in the West Bank, including seven from Jericho. During that time, more over 100 Palestinians had been arrested.
His death came amid reports of 191 Palestinians being injured in clashes with Israeli forces near Mount Abu Sbeih near Beita, south of Nablus, as residents staged a counter-protest against a march by thousands of Israeli settlers attempting to reclaim the nearby abandoned hilltop outpost known as “Avitar.”
The march began at the Za’tara checkpoint and was led by seven government ministers, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. More than a dozen more Knesset members took part.
The settlers wanted the legitimacy of Avitar, which was founded in 2013 and was finally evacuated by Supreme Court order last year after repeated bouts of unrest in which 12 Palestinians were killed and thousands were injured.
According to Israeli media, some protesters have pledged to take and remain at the spot in order to “impose a reality on the ground.”
The mayor of Beita, Mahmoud Barham, told Arab News that hundreds of citizens challenged the Israeli troops.
According to Barham, whose brother was slain in earlier conflicts over Avitar, the attendance of Israeli ministers, MPs, and settlement leaders was intended to send a message that Israel was intent to rule the area.
“We are ready to confront and resist them, and to launch a new round of popular resistance,” he told Arab News. “We were and will remain Mount Abu Sbeih’s guards, even if the number of martyrs, injured, and prisoners among us doubles.”
According to Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Presidency’s settlement file in the northern West Bank, the march attempted to legitimize the plunder of Palestinian lands.
“With this extreme right-wing Israeli government, we are facing a new settlement battle,” he stated. “If their policies do not elicit a strong Palestinian and international popular response, they will reactivate settlements in the northern West Bank and rebuild settlements evacuated in 2005.”
Meanwhile, on the fifth day of the Jewish Passover festival, about 1,500 settlers escorted by Israeli police invaded Al-Aqsa Mosque.
According to the Islamic Awqaf Department, the numbers were greater than before Passover. Hundreds of Palestinians and Turks were present in Al-Aqsa squares during the incursion, according to the report.
According to Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Al-Qanou, both occurrences demonstrated Israel’s hostility and push to Judaize Palestinian land and sanctuaries. He urged Palestinians to oppose what he considered a fascist occupation administration.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh stated that the Israeli government must be held accountable for its daily crimes, including the aggression at Al-Aqsa, the pro-settlement march of ministers and Knesset members, and the invasions that have resulted in the deaths of many Palestinians, including Mohammed Balhan, who died on Monday in Jericho.
In Hebron, Israeli troops shuttered the Bab Al-Zawiya neighborhood and Beersheba Street in preparation for a settler march, forcing store owners to close their doors and preventing buyers from preparing for Eid in Al-Shuhada Street and the Tal Rumeida neighborhood.
Under the guise of the settlers’ Jewish holiday, Israeli authorities continue to ban civilians and visitors from entering the Ibrahimi Mosque to pray.