Palestinian protesters clash in West Bank with Israelis

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JERUSALEM -- Clashes erupted Saturday in the West Bank, where Jewish settlers shot two Palestinian demonstrators in the northern village of Kusra, an Israeli military official and Palestinian residents said.

The clashes reflected mounting tensions in the West Bank, where Palestinians have faced off against Israeli troops in recent weeks in a series of large demonstrations protesting Israel's control of the territory.

Helmi Abdul-Aziz, 24, was shot in the stomach in the skirmish with Jewish settlers, Palestinian demonstrators said. They said Jewish settlers also shot 14-year-old Mustafa Hilal in the foot. An Israeli military official confirmed that two Palestinians were shot, but said the bullets appeared to have been fired by Jewish settlers because Israeli forces were not using live ammunition.

A Palestinian hospital official said Abdul-Aziz was in serious condition.

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Villagers said the clashes began when a group of Jewish settlers encroached on their village lands and fired guns. They said Jewish settlers chased a Palestinian farmer and his family off land, prompting the farmer to call on residents to confront the settlers.

The Israeli military official said about 200 Palestinians and 25 Jewish settlers took part in the clashes, and Israeli forces dispersed Palestinian protesters using "riot dispersal means."

Two Palestinian residents watching the clashes, Basem Nazal and Abdul-Azim Wadi, said Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on demonstrators, and that a rubber bullet hit a 15-year-old Palestinian demonstrator in the eye.

Nazal, a resident of Kusra, said groups of settlers were also uprooting their olive trees and vandalizing Palestinian homes close to the wildcat Jewish outpost of Eish Kodesh.

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