QALANDIA REFUGEE CAMP, Palestine: Palestinian officials said they called off a planned round of peace talks Monday after Israeli security forces shot dead three Palestinians during clashes in the West Bank.
But in comments that suggested the meeting had gone ahead as planned, a U.S. official in Washington said “no meetings have been canceled.”
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media, refused to elaborate. Israeli officials refused to comment.
A Palestinian official told AFP “the meeting that was to take place in Jericho ... today was canceled because of the Israeli crime committed in Qalandia today.” He did not set a new date.
The violence drew fierce Palestinian condemnations. “Such a crime proves the need for an urgent and effective international protection for our people,” Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a statement.
“What happened today in Qalandia shows the real intentions of the Israeli government,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina, told AFP as reports of the shooting started to emerge.
He called on the U.S. administration to “take serious and quick steps” to prevent the collapse of peace efforts.
The violence, the deadliest incident in the area in years, dealt a new blow to U.S.-led peace efforts. Palestinian officials have accused the Israelis of stonewalling and using the process as a cover to build new Jewish settlements. The deaths of the Palestinians have further soured the atmosphere.
Medics reported three shot dead and 19 wounded by Israeli security forces in Qalandia camp, which is between Ramallah and Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, early Monday.
They named the dead as Rubeen Abed Fares, 30, and Yunis Jahjouh, 22, both shot in the chest, and Jihad Aslan, 20, who died of brain damage. The hospital officials said all the casualties had been hit by live ammunition.
An Israeli police spokeswoman said border police used “riot dispersal means” to disperse a stone-throwing crowd of 1,500 people.
“In the early hours of the morning a border police team went into Qalandia camp to arrest a hostile terrorist activist,” spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
“After his arrest a mob of about 1,500 residents began a disturbance, throwing petrol bombs and stones, endangering the lives of force members, who responded with riot dispersal means.”
An army spokeswoman said troops did not participate in the initial arrest raid but were sent in to extricate the border police.
“An army force was called to help them,” she told AFP. “They were obliged to use live fire to protect themselves, and according to preliminary reports two [Palestinians] were killed and others were wounded.”
Hatim Khatib, whose brother Youssef was arrested in the raid, told AP that undercover troops dressed in civilian clothes arrived at their home at 4:30 a.m. looking for the brother.
“After half an hour we started hearing shooting from the soldiers inside our house, and then people started throwing stones at them,” he said.
Youssef was arrested after he returned from morning prayers at 7 a.m., he said.
He said he didn’t know why his brother was the only one arrested but said Youssef had spent time in Israeli jail for throwing rocks and was released three years ago. The Israeli military would not say why he was wanted.