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World leaders urge Iran, Israel to avoid escalation

Israeli settlers shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank on Monday, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials, as tensions continued to rise in the Israeli-occupied territory.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identified the two men as Abdelrahman Bani Fadel, 30, and Mohammad Bani Jama, 21. The circumstances of their death near the town of Aqraba remain unclear.

The Israeli military said the two men were killed during a “violent exchange” between Israeli settlers and Palestinians that followed a report that a Palestinian was attacking an Israeli shepherd. A preliminary investigation indicated that the shots “did not come” from Israeli soldiers, the army said.

The two Palestinians appeared to have been shot dead by Israeli settlers there, said an Israeli security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing.

The killings fueled fears that the West Bank could become another gateway for a country already in its seventh month of war in the Gaza Strip.

Around 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank live alongside around 2.7 million Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. Since fighting began on October 7, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces there and in East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations.

Jihad Abu Aliya, 25, was killed in a mob attack, according to the village mayor.Credit score…Nasser Nasser/Associated Press

Over the past few days, a new wave of violence has swept across the West Bank.

On Friday, a 14-year-old Israeli teenager disappeared, sparking a riot by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian village of Al Mughayir. Jihad Abu Aliya, a 25-year-old resident, was fatally shot during a collective attack, according to the village mayor, Amin Abu Aliya.

{The teenager}, Binyamin Achimair, was found lifeless on Saturday after an intensive search; Israeli officers said he was murdered in an act of terrorism and vowed to find the perpetrators. In response, Israeli settlers, some of whom were armed, carried out a series of mass attacks in Palestinian towns, burning homes and vehicles, according to Palestinian witnesses.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israelis to allow security forces to search for Mr. Achimair’s killers, but he stopped short of denouncing mob attacks on Palestinians. Human rights groups have long accused Israel of turning a blind eye to settler violence and rarely bringing perpetrators to justice.

In pictures broadcast on Sunday by Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group that tracks Jewish extremist violence in the West Bank, hooded figures can be seen setting a car on fire while Israeli soldiers watch closely without intervening.

The United Nations human rights office said Tuesday that Israeli security forces “should immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks against Palestinians.”

“Israeli authorities should instead prevent further attacks, including by holding those responsible to account,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the office. “Those who are moderately suspected of legal acts, including murder or other unlawful killings, must be brought to justice,” she added.

Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the State Division, condemned Mr. Achimair’s killing in a statement Monday. But he also said Washington was “increasingly involved in the violence against Palestinian civilians and their property that followed in the West Bank after Achimair’s disappearance.”

“We strongly condemn these killings and our hearts go out to their family members,” Miller said. “The violence must stop. Civilians are in no way legitimate targets.

Nick Cumming-Bruce reports contributed.

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