5 killed in West Bank amid new Gaza truce efforts
JERUSALEM — The U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state made a new attempt Friday to nail down a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, as Israel’s 18-day military operation in the Gaza Strip fueled new unrest in the West Bank, where five Palestinians were killed during protests.
Also Friday, Israel’s military announced that an Israeli soldier whom Hamas had claimed to have captured in Gaza earlier this week was in fact killed in battle that day. The capture of an Israeli soldier could have been a game changer in Israel-Hamas fighting and the international efforts to end it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to try to bring a week-long pause in the Israel-Hamas fighting, beginning as soon as this weekend.
Kerry delayed his anticipated departure from Cairo for several hours to talk again by phone to Qatari officials who are serving as a go-between with Hamas, which the U.S. considers terrorist organization and cannot negotiate with directly.
Over the last week, in his travels from Cairo to Ramallah to Israel, Kerry has made clear that he wanted to secure at least a temporary pause in the violence before he returned to Washington. But U.S. efforts have been frustrated by deeply-ingrained hostilities between Israel and Palestinian officials, and by mistrust among Mideast nations who have taken sides in the conflict even as they agree to push for a cease-fire.
The West Bank has become increasingly restive over Israel’s Gaza operation, in which more than 800 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,200 wounded since July 8, according to Palestinian health officials.
In the West Bank, protests against the Gaza operation operation erupted Friday in the northern village of Hawara, near the city of Nablus, and the southern village of Beit Omar, near the city of Hebron.
Palestinian hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed in Beit Omar and two in Hawara.
The mayor of Hawara, Mouin Idmeidi, said he and hundreds of others from the village participated in a protest after emerging from a local mosque following Friday noon prayers.
Hawara is located along a main north-south thoroughfare that is also used by Israeli motorists. Idmeidi said an Israeli motorist slowed down as he passed the march and fired at the group.
The mayor said four people were wounded and that one of them, a 19-year-old, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus of his injuries.
After the shooting, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli troops who opened fire, killing a 22-year-old from Hawara, the mayor said.
Rafidiyeh hospital confirmed the deaths.
In Beit Omar, clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian stone-throwers. Hebron hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians clashes with Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint and in east Jerusalem, the largest protests in those areas in several years.