Tensions rise in the West Bank after an Israeli teenager was found dead

The disappearance and death of an Israeli teenager, whose body was found in the West Bank on Saturday, has sparked deadly riots by Israeli settlers in Palestinian villages, further increasing tension in the occupied territories.

Settlers unleashed a wave of mass violence in a Palestinian village near Ramallah on Friday and carried out mass assaults in at least two villages on Saturday, after Israeli authorities announced that the teenager, Binyamin Achimair, had been found dead .

Israeli police said Binyamin, 14, had left a West Bank farming settlement to graze sheep on Friday morning but never returned. Israeli forces found his body on Saturday near the settlement of Malachei HaShalom in the central West Bank.

On the second day of unrest erupted in the village near Ramallah, Al Mughayir, and another Palestinian village, Duma, an Israeli security official said. Israeli settlers, some of them armed, entered the villages, the official added. There were reports that settlers had opened fire.

The Israeli army said in a statement that dozens of Palestinians and Israelis were injured during clashes in several locations in the West Bank on Saturday. It described them as “clashes between Israeli civilians and Palestinians” in which “stones were thrown and shots were fired.” The statement said the army and police worked to disperse the crowd.

In Duma, the attackers “covered the entire village,” some of them armed, said Naser Dawabsheh, a resident. They set fire to several buildings and cars, sending a cloud of thick smoke over the village, he said. Instead of dispersing the Israeli rioters, the Israeli army protected them, he added.

On Friday, while the teenager was still missing, settlers set fire to cars and buildings in Al Mughayir, Palestinian officials said. One Palestinian – Jihad Abu Aliya – was killed and 25 others injured after armed Israeli settlers raided the village, the mayor, Amin Abu Aliya, said. In a video released by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, smoke can be seen billowing from burning cars and buildings.

Casualties in Al Mughayir increased on Saturday, when at least three Palestinians were injured, one seriously, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

“There is no order, there is no security,” said Na'asan Na'asan, 28, a resident of Al Mughayir. “They are shooting at us: why is there no one to protect us?”

The clashes underlined growing tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where around 500,000 Israeli settlers live alongside some 2.7 million Palestinians. Israeli and Palestinian officials fear a broader conflict could erupt in the territory, which has seen a sharp increase in violence in recent months but not widespread unrest.

Saturday's clashes came several hours before Iran launched drones toward Israeli territory in apparent retaliation for an airstrike in the Syrian capital of Damascus on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders. The region was bracing for an attack by Iran, which analysts and officials warned could spur an Israeli response and potentially spark an even wider conflict.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the “heinous murder” of the Israeli teenager and vowed that Israel will “settle accounts” with whoever killed him. He did not explicitly mention the riot, instead telling the Israeli public to “allow the security forces to carry out their work undisturbed” while they investigated.

The Israeli army announced Saturday that it will strengthen its forces in the West Bank with additional companies and police.

Tensions have risen in the West Bank as much of the world's attention is turned to Gaza, where Israel has waged a devastating six-month campaign since the surprise Oct. 7 assault by Hamas, the Palestinian armed group.

After the Hamas-led attacks, more than 400 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations, in one of the bloodiest periods in recent years. Palestinian militants have occasionally attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians, killing at least 14, while Israeli forces have carried out a widespread crackdown, arresting thousands of people.

In Gaza, active fighting recently fell to its lowest level in months after the Israeli army withdrew its troops from the southern part of the devastated territory. But the pace picked up again this week as the army shifted its attention to the center of the Gaza Strip.

THE The Israeli military announced it on Thursday it began a “precise operation” in central Gaza. He added in a statement on Saturday that his troops continue the operation there and have destroyed Hamas infrastructure over the past day.

Hamas said in a statement on Friday that the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, which is “crowded with displaced people from various regions of the Strip,” was the subject of “a barbaric attack” that left “dozens of martyrs and injured ”.

“The shelling and bombing has not stopped” since the Israeli raid began Thursday afternoon, Khalil Farid, 57, said in a text message exchange Friday. “The army gave no warning about this operation,” said Mr. Farid, who lives in the camp. He added that “no leaflets were distributed and no one was told where to go or what to do.”

The United Nations office for humanitarian affairs said on Friday that three Palestinians were reported killed and others injured when a United Nations school housing displaced people in Nuseirat was hit. Palestinian civil defense authorities in Gaza said their rescue teams received “dozens of distress calls” after an Israeli attack on the school killed and injured several people. They said they couldn't evacuate people because it was too dangerous to enter the area.

Yazbek error, Abu Bakr Bashir, Eric Schmitt AND Michael D. Shear contributed to the reporting.

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