JENIN: Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of Raed Abu Seif and Saleh Ammar during their funeral at the Jenin refugee camp yesterday. - AFP

JENIN: Four Palestinians were killed yesterday in clashes with Zionist security forces at Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, where violence has escalated over a wildcat Jewish settlement. The Zionist Border Police, which operates in the West Bank, claimed its forces came under fire during a search for a Palestinian suspected of involvement in alleged "terrorist" activities. "Heavy gunfire was opened at a short range by a large number" of people, said a spokesman for the Zionist Border Police. "The border police force fired back at the terrorists and neutralized them. There were no victims among our ranks," he said.

Deadly clashes have been frequent in Jenin and the flashpoint West Bank town of Beita since May, when dozens of Zionist families arrived and began constructing the wildcat settlement of Eviatar. The latest lives lost were four Palestinians killed by "(Zionist) gunfire", according to the Palestinian health ministry. It identified them as Raed Abu Seif, 21, and Saleh Ammar, 19, as well as Amjad Husseiniyah and Nureddin Jarrar.

The bodies of Abu Seif and Ammar were seen at the Jenin hospital morgue, while the Palestinian health ministry said Zionist forces had also taken the bodies of two other Palestinians. The Zionist side confirmed it was holding the bodies of two Palestinians. Late morning, a crowd was gathered for the funerals of Abu Seif and Ammar, whose remains were draped in Palestinian flags and carried through the Jenin camp on makeshift stretchers, AFP journalists reported.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland voiced alarm over their killings. "Alarmed by the incident in which 4 #Palestinians were killed by (Zionist) Security Forces who reportedly came under fire during an arrest operation in Jenin," he wrote on Twitter, adding that "authorities must swiftly investigate."

The Palestinian presidency condemned a "heinous crime" and held the Zionist state "responsible for the escalation and its repercussions". "The continuation of the (Zionist) policy will lead to an explosion of the situation, increased tensions and instability," presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina warned in a statement.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said two of the Palestinians killed had been living in Jenin refugee camp, a hotspot during the two Palestinian intifadas, or uprisings, against the Zionist entity in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005. The two others, Abu Seif and Jarrar, were originally from the city of Jenin.

The Jenin gunfight was the deadliest Zionist-Palestinian violence since the May 21 start of an uneasy ceasefire between the Zionist entity and Palestinian militants in Gaza following a deadly 11-day battle. Hours after the Jenin incident, a rocket was fired from Gaza toward the Zionist entity, which intercepted it with the "Iron Dome" missile system, the army said.

In recent weeks there have been numerous clashes between Zionist forces and Palestinians in the northern occupied West Bank, mainly in Jenin and Beita. The inhabitants of Beita have held a number of demonstrations in recent weeks against the Zionist occupation and the settlement expansion, triggering violent confrontations. The clashes with the Zionist security forces have claimed the lives of several Palestinians and left hundreds more injured.

Beita residents have been demonstrating since May against the Eviatar settlement set up nearby without official permission from Zionist authorities. The settlement was evacuated in early July but Zionist army troops remain stationed there while authorities deliberate on its fate. If the settlement is approved, its founders will be allowed to take up residence there more permanently.

Beita's residents have vowed to continue their campaign until the army also leaves the outpost. The Zionist entity occupied the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War and all Zionist settlements there are considered illegal by most of the international community. Almost half a million people live in Zionist settlements in the West Bank, alongside 2.8 million Palestinians. - AFP