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Palestinians protest as Jerusalem refugee camp locked down


Hundreds of people protested at checkpoints into a refugee camp in Jerusalem and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces broke out across the West Bank on Wednesday, with a Palestinian killed near the southern city of Hebron.

The violence spread to the streets in East Jerusalem where Israeli police said they clashed with rioters and arrested several people who set fire to tires, threw rocks at passing cars and attacked officers.

The incidents continue months of escalating tensions that have deepened since Israeli forces began a crackdown in the occupied West Bank in late March following a series of attacks by Palestinians in Israel that killed 19 people.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed this year, most since the army launched its operation, which has been marked by a near-daily series of raids and clashes with militant groups in West Bank cities like Nablus and Jenin.

Wednesday's protests erupted as security forces continued a hunt for the killer of an 18-year-old soldier who was shot while on duty at a checkpoint into the Shuafat refugee camp, a heavily built-up area on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem that is home to an estimated 60,000 people.

The area has been blockaded for days as police have imposed strict vehicle checks and combed through streets and houses looking for the shooter.

On Wednesday, long lines of cars formed at checkpoints leading out of the area while groups of youths hurled stones at police and set fire to rubbish containers, sending plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Clashes also broke out in cities across the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Nablus, where security forces blocked roads into the city.

Around the southern city of Hebron, Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd throwing rocks at cars on a highway, hitting at least one person. The Palestinian Health Ministry said an 18- year-old had died after being hit in the abdomen.

The army operations and frequent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the West Bank have fuelled increasing anger among young Palestinians who have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops.

On Tuesday, a second Israeli soldier was killed near a Jewish settlement between Jenin and Nablus.

Many shops in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank were closed on Wednesday as a mark of protest, while private schools also told pupils to stay at home.

"The strike is in solidarity with Shuafat refugee camp and how it is being dealt with," said Jerusalem resident Khaled Alqam. "It looks like it will be the start of a civil disobedience (campaign), and let us hope for the best."


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