Palestinians say talks in jeopardy after killings

Israeli refugee camp raid leaves 3 dead, 15 hurt

Palestinian protesters threw stones during clashes with Israeli security forces the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday.
Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA
Palestinian protesters threw stones during clashes with Israeli security forces the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian leaders said peace negotiations were threatened Monday after Israeli security forces fatally shot three Palestinian men during an early-morning clash in the Qalandia refugee camp here.

It was one of the deadliest incidents in the West Bank since 2009, when three Palestinians were killed in Nablus after a standoff with Israeli forces.

In addition to the three dead in the Qalandia incident, 15 were wounded and six were in critical condition in Ramallah hospitals, according to Palestinian officials.


A senior member of the Palestinian Authority said a gathering scheduled for Monday, as part of the US-led peace negotiations, was postponed to protest the killings.

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Citing a promise to keep initial talks secret, Israeli officials refused to comment on whether a meeting was scheduled or canceled.

State Department spokeswoman Mari Harf told Reuters, ‘‘I can assure you that no meetings have been canceled.’’ She said, ‘‘The parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations.’’

The incident began when members of the Israeli border patrol, in civilian cars and clothing, arrived before dawn in the tough Qalandia refugee camp at the southern edge of Ramallah to arrest a ‘‘terror operative,’’ according to military officials.

As the officers was searching for a man named Yossif Khatib, who was recently released from prison, groups of young men who had been alerted to their presence arrived to confront them, followed by Israeli soldiers who came to assist the border patrol, according to eyewitnesses and Israeli military spokesmen.


The Israeli military said the Palestinians attacked their forces using cement blocks and rocks, and posed an imminent threat to their lives.

‘‘Large, violent crowds such as this, which significantly outnumber security forces, leave no other choice but to resort to live fire in self defense,’’ said Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

Palestinians said the Israelis acted with excessive force.

Video taken at the scene shows two Israeli jeeps slowly driving down a street in Qalandia as men on the rooftops bombard the vehicles with cement blocks, but it was not clear whether the rock throwing in the video occurred before or after the killings.

At the funeral for the three dead, senior Palestinian leaders and angry residents said they believed Israel provoked the attack by arriving in the refugee camp in the morning, when people were going to work, school, and mosque.


Israeli military officials said the attempt to arrest their suspect was a ‘‘nighttime incursion’’ that led to a riot. Video showed and witnesses said that the violence took place after sunrise.

‘‘It is clear to us that the occupiers do not want a peace process and so the Israelis create these kinds of incidents,’’ said Mahmoud al-Aloul, the former governor of the Nablus district and a member of the central committee of the Fatah political party.

As members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade fired automatic weapons in the air, a local Muslim cleric told the mourners that ‘‘the Israelis don’t want peace. They want to shed our blood.’’

Later, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters ‘‘the continued criminal acts by the Israelis, alongside the continued settlement construction, expose the true intentions of Israel’s government, and the actions it takes to foil the peace talks.’’

Rudeineh called on US officials to intervene now ‘‘to thwart the collapse of the negotiations.’’

Omar Hammad, a resident of Qalandia who said he was an eyewitness to Monday’s events, said Israeli security forces shot one victim through the chest from the back of a jeep and another while he was on a rooftop. ‘‘I have seen many incursions by Israeli soldiers into our neighborhood,’’ Hammad said. ‘‘It seemed that this time they came to kill.’’

Fadi Matteer, 27, said he was coming into Qalandia when he heard sporadic gunfire. He said Palestinians were throwing rocks and the Israeli forces ‘‘got scared and started shooting.’’ Matteer, bandaged, said he was shot in the right arm.

In the weeks since US Secretary of State John Kerry persuaded Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to return to the table for talks, both sides have accused the other of attempting to derail the process.