A 58-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead outside a bakery during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank early Friday.
His family and the Palestinian Health Ministry said he was shot by Israeli soldiers. The military said he may have been killed by Palestinian militants fired during clashes during the raid, but a Palestinian eyewitness said there were no terrorists in the immediate area.
In a separate development, Israel approved an additional 1,500 work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, less than two weeks after the region’s militant Hamas rulers called out the latest round of violence there.
According to his brother Jihad, 58-year-old Salah Sawafta was shot in the head while he was returning home from morning prayer in the West Bank town of Tubas.
“There were clashes with youths in the area and Salah was shot in the head by a sniper after buying a bag of bread from the grocery store,” he said. The Palestinian Health Ministry said he died after being brought to a local hospital in critical condition.
Surveillance video from outside the bakery shows Sawafta falling to the ground as another man leans out the door and looks at the street. Neither the Israeli army nor the Palestinian terrorists can be seen in the video.
Bakery owner Zakarya Abu Dolla said he was surprised to see Israeli soldiers and a sniper taking positions on the street outside his shop just before shooting. He said there were no Palestinian gunmen or stone throwers in the immediate area.
The Israeli military said its troops had gone to arrest Palestinians suspected of participating in or planning the attacks. Palestinians threw firebombs and opened fire on soldiers, who shot back, the military said, adding that “a hit was identified,” without elaborating. The military said it was still investigating the incident.
Israeli forces conduct raids almost daily in the West Bank, including in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, often igniting violent confrontations with stone-throwing Palestinians or gunmen.
In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas that Palestinians want for a future state. Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, and the Islamist terrorist group Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority two years later.
Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor battles, and Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the region. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from re-arming, while critics see it as a collective punishment of more than two million Palestinian residents of Gaza.
Israel has taken steps to ease the blockade over the past year as part of an understanding with Hamas aimed at maintaining peace, including issuing thousands of permits to Palestinian laborers from Gaza to work inside Israel. . The latest increase brings the total number of permits to 15,500.
This was probably involved in Hamas’ decision to stay out of the most recent fighting, which began when a wave of airstrikes against what Israel said was an imminent threat from Islamic Jihad, a small armed group in Gaza. .
The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire ended three days of heavy fighting in which Israel carried out waves of airstrikes that were terrorist targets and Islamic Jihad fired some 1,100 rockets at Israel. At least 49 Palestinians, including 17 children, were killed in the fighting, as well as more than a dozen militants. No Israelis were killed or seriously injured.