Israeli army kills 16-year-old Palestinian in West Bank, claiming youths threw explosives

This is a locator map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. (AP Photo)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli security forces on Saturday killed a 16-year-old Palestinian in a confrontation in the southern occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said, the latest violence to roil the territory during one of the most violent stretches of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in nearly two decades.

The death of Milad al-Rai brings to 185 the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year by Israeli fire, including over 30 youths under the age of 18. This year's death toll in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has already overtaken that of 2022, which had been considered the deadliest year since the United Nations began tracking in 2005.

The Israeli military said that it unleashed tear gas and opened fire at a group of Palestinians outside the Al-Aroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank who had lobbed Molotov cocktails at troops across the way. It said it was aware that one of the Palestinians had been shot and said there were Israeli military casualties.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the Palestinian killed as 16-year-old Milad al-Rai and said he was struck in the back by bullets.

Nearly half of Palestinians killed in the violence this year have been affiliated with militant groups, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of those killed were militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions as well as people not involved in the confrontations have also died.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have spiked as the Israeli military intensifies its arrest raids in the West Bank. More than 30 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis since the start of 2023.

Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces, inspire more militancy and entrench Israeli control over lands they seek for a hoped-for future state.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war.