By Ali Sawafta
RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 1 – Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank as troops fought to rescue two soldiers who the army said on Tuesday were attacked after straying into a refugee camp.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said a 22-year-old man died of gunshot wounds and six were wounded in the violence that began late on Monday at Qalandia refugee camp. The Israeli military and police said five soldiers and five paramilitary border policemen were hurt.
The incident came during a period of heightened tensions in which Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October.
Israeli security forces have killed at least 170 Palestinians, 112 of whom Israel says were assailants, while most others were shot dead during violent anti-Israeli protests.
A military spokeswoman said the soldiers’ vehicle inadvertently entered Qalandia where they and later their rescuers came under a hail of rocks and petrol bombs.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said the two soldiers got into trouble because they had relied on satellite navigation on their mobile phone.
“I have always said that if even if you use a navigation program, you still need to know how to navigate with a map,” Yaalon said in a speech near Tel Aviv.
The Qalandia camp lies north of Jerusalem and on the outskirts of Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government. It is a point of frequent violence between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.
The past five months of bloodshed have been fuelled by various factors, including a dispute over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to secure the Palestinians an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Palestinian leaders have said that with no breakthrough on the horizon, desperate youngsters see no future ahead. Israel says young Palestinians are being incited to violence by their leaders and by Islamist groups calling for Israel’s destruction.