JERUSALEM – Palestinian villagers and Jewish settlers clashed in the northern West Bank village of Kusra on Saturday, wounding one demonstrator who protesters say was shot in the stomach.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for shooting Helmi Abbul-Aziz, a 24-year-old man who took part in the protests that reflect mounting tension as Palestinians in the West Bank demonstrate against Israel's control of the territory.
A Palestinian hospital official and two villagers said Abdul-Aziz was in serious condition after being shot in the stomach. The medic requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 150 Palestinians and 25 Jewish settlers took part in the clashes. The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy, said she was looking into the shooting and reports that live fire was used to disperse the demonstrators.
Two residents watching the clashes, Basem Nazal and Abdul-Azim Wadi, said Israeli forces dispersing the Palestinians used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets — but not live fire.
Settler officials were not immediately available for comment on the Jewish Sabbath, but villagers said the most likely perpetrator was a Jewish settler. They said a group of Israeli civilians had encroached onto their village lands armed with guns that they initially fired during the melee.
According to Palestinian demonstrators, the clashes began when a group of Jewish settlers chased a Palestinian farmer and his family off land in the village. In response, the farmer called on residents to confront the settlers, and men on both sides hurled rocks at each other.
Basem Nazal, a resident of Kusra, said groups of settlers were uprooting their olive trees and vandalizing Palestinian homes close the wildcat Jewish outpost of Eish Kodesh.
There are some 300,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, which the international community condemns. Palestinians seek the West Bank, a hilly territory which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, for part of their future state. A hardline minority of Jewish settlers frequently attack nearby Palestinian villagers and their property.
The clashes come a day after widespread demonstrations took place throughout the West Bank in support of four hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention. More broadly, there has been a general rise in Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank against Israel's control of the territory.