RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians, including a 13-year-old, in clashes during West Bank raids Friday, as a search for three Israeli teens feared abducted in the territory entered its second week.
Two other Palestinians were seriously wounded by army gunfire during raids in four towns and refugee camps. The two Palestinians killed Friday raised to three the number of Palestinians shot dead by troops during search operations this week.
The three Jewish seminary students disappeared June 12 while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Israel has blamed the Islamic militant Hamas group for the apparent abduction, but has offered no proof.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used the search to promote two other objectives — a new crackdown on Hamas and an attempt to discredit the Palestinian unity government formed earlier this month by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, which is supported by Hamas.
Hamas has praised the abduction of the teenagers but has not claimed responsibility for it. The group has abducted Israelis in the past to press for the release of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
In Hebron, families of Palestinians arrested recently in Israeli raids protested after weekly Muslim prayers. They gestured with three fingers, one for each missing teen, in a sign of their support for the abduction.
The gesture has become popular on social media among Palestinians and others who support the abductions of the teens.
Over the past week, thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested more than 300 Palestinians, many from Hamas.
The Israeli military said it conducted raids in four towns and refugee camps early Friday, detaining 25 suspects and searching about 200 locations. The army said it searched nine institutions linked to Hamas and confiscated materials.
In one raid, in the town of Dura near Hebron, Palestinian youths threw stones at soldiers, drawing army fire. A hospital official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media, said 13-year-old Mohammed Dodeen was killed by a bullet in the chest. The official had earlier said he was 15.
The army also opened fire during a raid in the Qalandiya refugee camp, where three Palestinians were seriously wounded, said Ahmed Bitawi, director of Ramallah's hospital. One of the three, 23-year-old Mustafa Aslan, later died of his wounds.
The army confirmed soldiers used life fire, saying they were responding to life-threatening situations, and added that the troops engaged in sporadic confrontations during Friday's raids.
Palestinians threw homemade explosives, firebombs, fireworks and stones, the military said. In Qalandiya, a soldier was lightly hurt by a grenade thrown at troops, it said.
A senior Israeli intelligence officer said Friday that anyone linked to Hamas was potentially a target for arrest.
He acknowledged that despite recent government declarations of a major crackdown on Hamas, both Israel and Abbas' Palestinian Authority have already dismantled much of the movement's West Bank infrastructure in recent years.
"But there are a lot of small places that are supporting Hamas," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military briefing regulations.
"We'll go to every place that has a sign of Hamas on it, and we're going to hit it. Whether it's small or large. We really don't look only for the big symbols. There are no big symbols ... the Palestinian Authority did it (the crackdown) before and we did it."
One of the locations targeted Thursday was the office of the Islamic student union at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University. A military spokesman said Hamas paraphernalia were confiscated as well as computers and databases, which are being searched.
Hamas activists said they had used the office to store materials for protests, such as flags and posters commemorating slain militants.