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Fatal clash may threaten Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian leaders said peace negotiations were threatened on Monday when Israeli security forces fatally shot three Palestinian men during an early-morning clash in the Qalandia refugee camp here.

It was one of the deadliest incidents in the West Bank since 2009, when three Palestinians were killed in Nablus in a standoff with Israeli forces. In addition to the three dead in the new incident, 15 were wounded and six were in critical condition in Ramallah hospitals, according to Palestinian officials.

A senior member of the Palestinian Authority said that a gathering scheduled for Monday as part of the U.S.-led peace negotiations was postponed to protest the killings.

Citing a promise to keep initial talks secret, Israeli officials refused to comment on whether a meeting was scheduled or canceled.

State Department spokeswoman Mari Harf told Reuters, “I can assure you that no meetings have been canceled.” She said, “The parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations.”

The incident began when members of the Israeli border patrol, in civilian cars and clothing, arrived before dawn in the tough Qalandia refugee camp at the southern edge of Ramallah to arrest a “terror operative,” according to military officials.

As the officers were searching for a man named Yossif Khatib, who was recently released from prison, groups of young men who had been alerted to their presence arrived to confront them, followed by Israeli soldiers who came to assist the border patrol, according to eyewitnesses and Israeli military spokesmen.

The Israeli military said the Palestinians attacked their forces using cement blocks and rocks and posed an imminent threat to their lives. “Large, violent crowds such as this, which significantly outnumber security forces, leave no other choice but to resort to live fire in self-defense,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

Palestinians said the Israelis acted with excessive force.

Video taken at the scene shows two Israeli jeeps slowly driving down a street in Qalandia as men on the rooftops bombard the vehicles with cement blocks, but it was not clear whether the rock throwing in the video occurred before or after the killings.

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