Israeli and Palestinian officials have blamed each other for the death of a Palestinian youth who was shot and killed by Israeli troops on Tuesday after petrol bombs and rocks were thrown at Israeli vehicles on a major highway that passes through the West Bank.
After initially reporting that Mahmoud Badran (15) was involved in the attacks on Israeli cars on Highway 443, an army inquiry determined that soldiers in the area had opened fire by mistake on a Palestinian vehicle on an adjacent road, full of local villagers returning from a visit to a nearby stream.
“Nearby forces acted in order to protect additional passing vehicles from immediate danger and fired toward suspects,” the military said. “From the initial inquiry, it appears that uninvolved bystanders were mistakenly hit during the pursuit.”
Palestinian medical sources said four other local residents travelling in the car were injured from the soldiers' fire. An Israeli and two tourists, slightly injured when their cars were hit by rocks, were taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.
The army confirmed that all the Palestinian casualties were not involved in the stone throwing and said an investigation is being carried out to determine why the soldiers opened fire on the vehicle.
The victim’s father called for an international investigation.
“This was indiscriminate gunfire with the intent to kill and I demand that this incident be judged by the international court.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry issued an angry statement and called on human rights organisations to investigate.
“The incident proves that Netanyahu’s government is a government of extremist settlers conducting a daily policy of terrorism against the Palestinian people.”
The foreign ministry described the shooting as Israel's response to Monday's decision by the European Union to back a French plan for an international conference by the end of this year to promote a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israel’s foreign ministry blamed the Palestinians for the incident.
"If it were not for the difficult security situation which is entirely the result of incitement and Palestinian terror, Israel would not have to use force in order to protect its civilians."
Highway 443 is the second motorway linking Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and Israel’s coastal plain, with about 16km crossing through the West Bank. With thousands of vehicles using the road each day, Israel views the highway as a strategically vital artery. In recent months, in response to a number of stone-throwing incidents, the army drafted extra troops to the area and placed a permanent aerial surveillance camera over the road.
Some 220 Palestinians and 33 Israelis and tourists have been killed since last October although the violence has significantly declined in recent months.