Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
July 22, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli forces shot to death a Palestinian man early on Thursday at the edge of a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank, the Israeli military and Palestinian officials said. The Palestinian Authority government condemned the killing and said the dead man was not armed. The Israeli military said soldiers spotted two Palestinians approaching the settlement of Barkan before dawn, suspected that one of them was armed and opened fire. One was killed, and the other man fled.

In a statement, the military added that it had set up a night watch by the settlement because of numerous attempts to infiltrate it in recent weeks and settlers had been complaining about a rise in theft.

But Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said the dead man, identified as Bilal Abu Libdeh from the West Bank city of Qalqilya, was not armed.

“Israel must hold its soldiers accountable for illegal and unjustified killings,” he said.

He continued, “The Israeli practice of shooting first and asking questions later has become the norm when dealing with Palestinians” in the West Bank. There has been a sharp reduction in violence in the West Bank over the last few years. Israeli military officials have partly attributed this to increased cooperation between the army, which maintains overall control of the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, who are playing a more active role.

But the relative calm is occasionally punctuated by attacks on Israelis, vandalism or attacks against Palestinian property or fatal encounters between Israeli forces and Palestinians, exacerbating tensions and complicating the environment for peace talks.

Four Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli forces in two separate episodes in March in the northern West Bank. After investigating the shootings, the military said operational mistakes were made and the deaths could have been prevented.

The military said on Thursday it had called on the Palestinian authorities to conduct a joint investigation into the latest death and a Palestinian representative had visited the site.


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