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Deaths raise tensions in West Bank

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Thousands of Palestinians marched on Thursday in funerals for a prisoner who died in Israeli custody and two teenagers fatally shot by Israeli soldiers.

The marches illustrated mounting tensions in the West Bank before a visit this weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry to explore ways to revive peace talks.

Scores of stone-throwing youths clashed with soldiers in the prisoner's hometown of Hebron and at other West Bank flash points, reflecting Palestinian outrage over the deaths and a deepening rift with Israel, complicating U.S. efforts to prod both sides back to negotiations.

Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to restore shattered trust between them, but the latest violence threatens to cast a pall over the meetings.

“It seems that Israel is seeking to stir up chaos in the Palestinian territories,” Abbas said at a meeting of top officials of his Fatah party.

The Israeli army said it was investigating an incident Wednesday night in which soldiers fatally shot two Palestinian teens in a confrontation near the city of Tulkarm.

A military spokeswoman said troops in a fortified watchtower near an Israeli settlement opened fire when a group of Palestinians, who were spotted approaching the position, hurled molotov cocktails at the post.

Palestinian medical officials said Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Balbisi, 18, were shot in the chest. The Israeli army said another youth was arrested.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which investigated the clash, said the protesters had pelted watchtowers at a checkpoint with stones and empty bottles, drawing live fire, and that a third was wounded in addition to the two youths who were killed.

Hundreds turned out for the teenagers' funeral in their hometown, Anabta, where uniformed security officers carried their bodies through chanting crowds.

Thousands also gathered in Hebron for the funeral of the prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdiya, 63, whose death of cancer in an Israeli hospital Tuesday set off street protests and accusations by Palestinian officials of medical negligence by prison authorities.

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