2 Palestinians killed in West Bank, one by local gunmen

JERUSALEM (AP) — Two Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the official Palestinian news agency said. It initially blamed both deaths on Israeli troops conducting arrest raids, but later reported that Palestinian gunmen were suspected in one of the deaths.

The Israeli military said troops traded fire with Palestinian gunmen in the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank when they went to arrest a wanted Palestinian. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that Samer Khaled, 25, died of a gunshot wound.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, initially said he was killed by Israeli troops but later reported that Palestinian authorities had arrested three people suspected in his death.

Witnesses had earlier reported that he was shot by one or more Palestinian gunmen after the Israeli troops left the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The military said troops also came under fire and shot back during a raid in el-Bireh, near Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered. Wafa said Yazan Afaneh, 26, was killed by Israeli fire.

Israel has been conducting near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank since March, driving up tensions. Israel began the raids after a series of deadly attacks earlier this year by Palestinians against Israelis that killed 19 people.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed since the start of the year, many of them militants or Palestinians involved in clashes with Israeli forces, the military says. But the rising figure includes several civilians, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer who apparently drove unwittingly into a battle zone.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek the territories for a future independent state.

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