Middle East

West Bank civilian dies in Israeli army raid in Hebron

Sobheye, widow of Amr Qawasme - 7 1 2011
Image caption The scene of the killing of Amr Qawasme

Israeli troops have shot dead a 67-year-old Palestinian man by mistake in an operation to arrest members of the Islamist militant organisation, Hamas.

The pre-dawn raid happened in Hebron, in the West Bank, a day after six supporters of Hamas had been released from jail by the Palestinian Authority.

The man who died was a neighbour of one of the Hamas men.

Hamas has said it holds the Palestinian Authority and Israel responsible.

Reports from the scene of the shooting said it took place in a bedroom on the building's first floor.

The Reuters news agency has reported that the man, Amr Qawasme, was shot and killed in his bed when soldiers broke into his home before dawn.

His wife, Sobheye, said she heard several shots fired and later saw her husband lying in a pool of blood.

"I was praying when they entered. I do not know how they opened the door. They put their hand to my mouth and a rifle to my head," she told Reuters.

"I was shocked. They did not allow me to talk. I asked them, "What did you do?" They asked me to shut up."

The IDF said in a statement: "A Palestinian man who was present in one of the terrorist's homes was killed. The IDF regrets the outcome of the incident." The army has ordered an investigation.

Reports say Israeli forces carried out a number of raids across the city, rounding up five men.

On Thursday Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas ordered the release of six Hamas prisoners who had been on hunger strike. Five were being held in a Hebron jail, while the sixth was imprisoned in Bethlehem.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited control over parts of the West Bank. The territory is under overall Israeli security control.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

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