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Palestinians protest as Jerusalem refugee camp locked down

scene of a shooting incident, near nablus
File photo: Israeli soldiers patrol near the site of a shooting incident, near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank

Hundreds of Palestinians protested at checkpoints into a major refugee camp in Jerusalem on Wednesday and shops across the West Bank closed, following an Israeli security crackdown after two soldiers died in shooting attacks this week.

There were incidents in several cities across the occupied West Bank and Israeli security forces closed roads into Nablus, one of the cities at the heart of months of clashes in which more than 100 Palestinians have been killed this year.

Earlier this week, security forces began a manhunt for the killer of an 18-year-old soldier who was shot while on duty at a checkpoint into the Shuafat refugee camp on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Shuafat camp, now a heavily built up area and home to an estimated 60,000 people, has been blockaded for days as police have combed through streets and houses looking for the shooter and imposed strict vehicle checks.

On Wednesday, long lines of cars formed at checkpoints leading out of the area while groups of youths hurled stones at police and set fire to rubbish containers, sending plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Many shops in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank were closed as a mark of protest, while private schools also told pupils to stay at home.

“The strike is in solidarity with Shuafat refugee camp and how it is being dealt with,” said Jerusalem resident Khaled Alqam. “It looks like it will be the start of a civil disobedience (campaign), and let us hope for the best.”

The episode has come following months of tensions in the West Bank after Israeli forces began a crackdown in late March in the wake of a series of attacks by Palestinians in Israel that killed 19 people.

Since then army raids and gunbattles with groups of armed militants in cities like Nablus and Jenin have become near-daily occurrences, fuelling increasing anger among young Palestinians who have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops.

On Tuesday, a second Israeli soldier was killed near a Jewish settlement between Jenin and Nablus.

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