Two more die as Israel-Palestinian unrest simmers, political faultlines widen

Palestinian demonstrators protest against Israeli settlements near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 10 April 2023.

A growing wave of unrest between Israelis and Palestinians claimed two more lives on Monday, after a poll showed plummeting support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party amid a divisive plan to rein in the Supreme Court's powers.

A Palestinian teen was killed during a military raid in the West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said, while hospital officials said the mother of two Israeli sisters killed last week in their car by a suspected Palestinian gunman had died of her injuries.

The poll, for Channel 13 News, showed Likud would lose more than a third of its seats if an election were held now, and Netanyahu would fail to gain a majority with his hard-right coalition partners.

In a sign of Israel's fracturing political faultlines, thousands of Israelis marched towards Evyatar, an evacuated outpost in the West Bank, in support of the expansion of settlements.

Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged this year, with frequent military raids and violence by Israeli settlers amid a spate of Palestinian attacks. More than 90 Palestinians and at least 19 Israelis and foreigners have been killed since January.

Tensions have risen following Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound last week, which triggered rocket attacks on Israel that were met with Israeli strikes in Gaza, south Lebanon and Syria.

The Palestinian health ministry said 15-year-old Mohammad Balhan sustained gunshot wounds to his head, chest and abdomen after an Israeli raid near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its forces operated in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, adjacent to Jericho, to apprehend Palestinians suspected in involvement in attacks against Israelis.

The military said that during the raid suspects opened fire and hurled explosives at its forces, who responded with live fire and hit some of the suspects, but no soldiers were wounded.

An eyewitness said he saw some people hurling rocks at the military after they raided the camp.

"I had just left my house when I saw military forces and people throwing stones," said Fayez Balhan, the teen's father.

After carrying another wounded person to an ambulance, the father noticed a young man lying on the ground, who turned out to be his son, he told Reuters.

The Palestinian Prisoners Association said the Israeli military arrested at least two people during the raid.

"We urge the world to hold this (Israeli) government accountable for its crimes," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at the start of the weekly government session.

Pro-settler march

Separately, hospital officials said the mother of two Israeli sisters who were killed last week in a shooting attack in the occupied West Bank had died of her wounds.

Lucy Dee, 48, succumbed to her wounds, Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital said in a statement.

Her daughters Maia and Rina Dee, 20 and 15, were killed on Friday when their car was shot at by a suspected Palestinian gunman. Israeli forces are still trying to track the assailant down.

In a separate part of the West Bank, thousands of Israelis, including government ministers, marched towards Evyatar waving Israeli flags and chanting religious slogans and songs as a Palestinian counter-protest was held nearby. The Palestinian Red Crescent said 191 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces.

"Now they understand why I have been pushing for the establishment of a national guard," far-right security chief Itamar Ben-Gvir said at the demonstration.

Ben-Gvir, a hardline Jewish settler, joined Netanyahu's coalition with an expanded law-and-order portfolio including a beefed-up national guard for use mainly in crime- and rioting-hit Arab communities.

Netanyahu agreed to bring Ben-Gvir's initiative for cabinet approval after the security chief backed Netanyahu's pause of the judicial overhaul proposal, which has triggered nationwide street protests.

Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital - territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.

US-sponsored statehood talks have been stalled since 2014 while Jewish settlements have expanded, developments which Palestinians say have undermined the chances of a viable state being established.