JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank on Sunday following a struggle at a military checkpoint, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, the latest death in a monthslong spiral of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The circumstances of the shooting were in dispute. The Israeli army claimed the man tried to grab a soldier’s weapon, while witnesses and relatives said he was shot while trying to defend himself during an inspection that turned violent.
The Israeli military said soldiers spotted what they deemed a suspicious vehicle that refused to stop for a “routine inspection” near the West Bank town of Silwad. A clash broke out when the soldiers attempted to detain one of the people in the vehicle, and soldiers opened fire when a passenger tried to grab a soldier’s weapon.
Maher Shafiq, a Palestinian witness, said the violence erupted after motorists began honking their horns due to lengthy delays in allowing cars to pass through the checkpoint. He said soldiers fired a stun grenade that hit the man’s car, prompting him to yell at them.
He said soldiers began beating the man and dragged him out of the car. “He tried to defend himself, so one of the soldiers shot him in cold blood,” Shafiq said.
A video circulating on social media showed what appeared to be an altercation, with a man struggling and jostling with a soldier, and the sounds of two gunshots before he falls to the ground.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man killed as Ahmad Kahla, 45.
Rights groups accuse Israel of using excessive force against Palestinians. The military says it contends with complex, life-threatening situations.
Tensions have been surging for months in the occupied territory, where the Israeli military has been staging nightly arrest raids since last spring. The raids were prompted by a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people, while another 10 Israelis were killed in a second string of attacks later last year.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, making it the deadliest year since 2004. Since the start of this year, 13 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But Palestinian stone-throwers, youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations also have been killed.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel’s open-ended, 55-year occupation of lands they seek for their future independent state.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians want for their hoped-for state. Israel has since settled 500,000 people in about 130 settlements across the West Bank, which the Palestinians and much of the international community view as an obstacle to peace.
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