Middle East

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli settler in West Bank

Palestinian men argue with Israeli soldiers after an incident near the West Bank village of Qusra (30 November 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Palestinians gathered at the scene of the shooting, which occurred in disputed circumstances

A Palestinian man has been shot and killed by an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank, officials say.

There are conflicting reports about the circumstances surrounding the incident near the village of Qusra.

Israel's military said the settler had opened fired in self-defence after Palestinians threw rocks at a group of hiking settlers and students.

But Palestinian officials said the dead man was a farmer who had been working his land when settlers attacked him.

They identified him as Mahmoud Odeh, 48, and said he was shot in the chest.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Wednesday's incident took place while a group of 20 Israeli boys, who were accompanied by adults, went on a hiking trip near Qusra.

"A disturbance broke out... involving dozens of Palestinians, during which one of the hikers shot at the rioters in self-defence," the Jerusalem Post quoted a statement as saying.

"The hikers barricaded themselves in a cave near the village. IDF forces arrived at the site and rescued all the hikers."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Israeli military said its troops arrived after the shooting and "rescued the hikers"

"One of the rioters was hit by gunfire," the statement added.

Israeli medics treated him at the scene, but he died from his wounds.

The Times of Israel reported that the settler who opened fire was one of two "armed escorts" for the hikers.

A Palestinian Authority official disputed the Israeli military's account of the incident.

Ghassan Daghlas told the Associated Press that Mr Odeh had been at work when a group of settlers trespassed on to his land and then ordered him to move. When Mr Odeh refused, one of them shot him, Mr Daghlas added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing of Mr Odeh, calling it a "cowardly act and evidence to the world of the ugly crimes conducted by settlers against unarmed Palestinians".

The BBC's Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says tensions between settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been on the rise.

A UN agency that monitors incidents said earlier this year that an increase in settler violence had occurred alongside a major rise in Palestinian attacks against Israelis, the vast majority of which involved stone-throwing at vehicles.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.