Israeli officer kills stone-throwing Palestinian youth in West Bank

A senior Israeli army officer shot and killed a Palestinian youth who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Friday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

A Palestinian witness and an Israeli military spokeswoman said the Palestinian was among a group throwing stones at an army vehicle near Qalandiya, a major checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The witness said the army vehicle stopped and soldiers got out and fired at the youth, whom a hospital official in Ramallah identified as 17-year-old Mohammed Sami al-Ksbeh. The hospital official said Ksbeh had been shot in the head and chest.

The military spokeswoman said the Palestinian was hurling rocks at the vehicle from close range and that the soldiers inside were in immediate danger. She said warning shots were fired in the air before Ksbeh was shot at directly.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner confirmed that an Israeli colonel, a brigade commander in the West Bank, had shot Ksbeh. Israeli media published photos of the colonel's vehicle with a smashed windscreen, which they said was hit by the thrown stones. The senior officer was identified as Israel Shomer in Israeli media reports.

While there is a widespread presence of Israeli troops and military police throughout the West Bank, it is rare for a senior officer to be involved in a shooting incident. The army said the military police was investigating the shooting.

In reaction to the death of Ksbeh, hundreds of Palestinians mourned the incident at the Qalandiya refugee camp, with members of the Palestinian armed group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade firing commemorative shots into the air. Palestinian news outlet Maan news agency reported that two of Ksbeh's brothers had been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces at in the refugee camp in March 2002.

The shooting of Ksbeh is the latest in a string of fatal incidents in the West Bank in recent weeks, with casualties on both sides. Tensions have escalated during Ramadan and in the run up to the anniversary of the war in Gaza last July and August.

In the past two weeks, two Israelis have been killed, both by Palestinian assailants in shootings conducted near West Bank settlements, while another Palestinian man was killed last Friday after opening fire on Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the Jordan Valley.

Several Israelis have been seriously injured in further shooting and stabbing attacks. On Wednesday, hundreds of Israelis held a protest against the rise in attacks against them in the West Bank and called for the Israeli military and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act against the violence.

Last night, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces arrested 108 members of Islamist faction Hamas in raids across the West Bank, in the cities of Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem, representing one of the largest operations against the group in the territory this year, according to the Times of Israel.

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran, in comment made to Palinfo news outlet, condemned the PA's "crazy" raids, accusing Mahmoud Abbas's forces of working for Israel and vowing to continue attacks against Israeli targets within the territory.

Earlier in the week, it was revealed that Israel's Shin Bet security agency had foiled a gold-funded Hamas terror cell in the West Bank city of Nablus, arresting 40 members of the Islamist faction.

Last year, an Israeli crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank following the kidnap and murder of three Israelis hitchhiking in the Palestinian territory by two Hamas members sparked the next round of conflict between Israel and the Gaza-based Islamist faction, which has controlled the coastal enclave since elections in 2006.

US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, who seek a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, broke down in April 2014 and there appears to be little prospect of them resuming any time soon.