Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

Two Palestinians killed in West Bank as Israel searches for missing teens

Most extensive Israeli military operation in West Bank in years raises Palestinian death toll to four

Israeli troops killed two Palestinians on Sunday, Palestinian medics said, as Israel pressed on with its crackdown on Hamas, the Islamist group it accuses of abducting three Israeli teens.

The troops shot dead a mentally ill Palestinian who approached them in a West Bank refugee camp Sunday, the Israeli army said. Another Palestinian was killed in violent confrontations in the city of Ramallah, as stone-throwers clashed with Israeli troops and Palestinian police there. Witnesses said both forces used live fire.

Additionally, soldiers entered several Palestinian cities and villages in the occupied West Bank, rounding up six men, the Israeli military said.

An autopsy showed the man killed in Ramallah was shot by an M-16 rifle, said Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Aloul. Palestinian forces do not use M-16s, said Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for Palestinian security forces. The Israeli military had no comment.

Sunday's deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians killed since Israel launched its most extensive military operation in the West Bank in years in response to the abduction of three Israeli teens on June 12.

As part of the crackdown, Israel is trying to dismantle Hamas in the West Bank, after blaming the kidnapping on the Islamic group. Hamas has praised the abductions but not claimed responsibility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the military action in the West Bank on Sunday, saying that he has "unequivocal proof" of Hamas involvement. He said he is sharing this evidence with several countries and will make it public soon.

“We have no intention of deliberately hurting anyone, but our forces are acting as necessary for their self-defense and, on occasion, there are fatalities or casualties on the Palestinian side," Netanyahu said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he has "no credible information" that Hamas orchestrated the kidnapping. "When Netanyahu has such information, he needs to update me and we will take care of the matter according to our own laws," he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Cautioning that Israel was "bringing the situation towards an explosion," the Palestinian Authority said it had launched efforts to convene an urgent session of the U.N. Security Council to try to end the offensive.

Mourners at the funeral procession from the mosque to the cemetery in Ramallah for Muhammad Ismail on June 22, 2014. He was killed the night before in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

Israel's large-scale arrest sweep has led to growing confrontations in the West Bank after years of relative calm. The military has so far searched some 1,350 sites in the West Bank and detained more than 330 Palestinians. Increasingly, Israeli troops raiding towns and refugee camps are met by crowds of Palestinian stone-throwers.

There are also signs of growing Palestinian anger at the Western-backed Abbas, who has publicly defended his decision to continue security coordination with Israel, including in the search for the teens.

As part of such coordination, Palestinian security forces withdraw to their positions when Israeli troops raid West Bank towns. This scenario played out when Israeli troops entered downtown Ramallah at about 2 a.m. Sunday, searching offices in two commercial buildings.

Several hundred Palestinians threw stones and flower pots at soldiers who fired live bullets and rubber-coated steel pellets, said Issam Rimawi, a photographer for a local newspaper.

After the soldiers withdrew, dozens of protesters hurled stones at a nearby Palestinian police station and smashed windows of parked cars, said Rimawi and a protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions from the authorities. Palestinian troops fired live rounds, the two witnesses said.

After the clashes, the body of Mohammed Ismail, 31, was found on a rooftop opposite the police station, they said.

On Sunday, several dozen people marched in downtown Ramallah to protest Israeli-Palestinian security coordination.

"Why, why security coordination? We get hit once by the Palestinian Authority and once by the Israeli army," they chanted.

In a separate incident Sunday, 27-year-old Ahmed Saoud was killed by Israeli troops as he walked to a mosque for dawn prayers in the Al-Ein refugee camp, said his father, Assad. The elder Saoud said his son suffered from mental illness.

The army said a Palestinian man approached soldiers in a threatening manner early Sunday, and that they fired warning shots before shooting him. The army said an "initial inquiry" suggested the man was mentally unstable.

The Israeli teens went missing as they were returning home from a Jewish religious school in the West Bank 10 days ago. They have not been heard from, and no group has asked for ransom or made other demands.

The army said it arrested six Palestinians overnight Sunday, raided six sites affiliated with Hamas civilian institutions and confiscated funds from 42 sites it said were connected to militant activity.

In the Gaza Strip, Israel carried out airstrikes on four sites following rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, the army said. Also Sunday, a Palestinian armed with a hand grenade was caught near an Israeli town near the Gaza border, apparently after he broke through the border fence, the army said.

Golan Heights

In other developments, a civilian vehicle in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was targeted by forces in neighboring Syria on Sunday in an attack that killed a 15-year-old boy and prompted Israeli tanks to retaliate by firing on Syrian government targets, the Israeli military said.

It was the first death on the Israeli side of the Golan since the Syrian war erupted more than three years ago. Two other people were wounded in the attack.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said it was "the most substantial incident" along the frontier with Syria since the beginning of the civil war. While he said it was unclear whether the vehicle had been struck by a rocket, mortar shell or some other explosive device, he said the attack was clearly intentional.

The vehicle was driving along a fence that Israel has built along the Syrian frontier, Lerner said. He said it was unclear whether the Syrian military or rebels had carried out the attack. Israel has said it holds Damascus responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory.

Israel has not taken sides in the Syrian civil war. Although it has closely watched the fighting, it has largely stayed out of the violence, though it has occasionally responded to fire that has landed on the Israeli side of the Golan.

Wire services

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