Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians when heavy clashes erupted Monday during an operation to destroy the West Bank home of an alleged attacker, the latest in a series of punitive demolitions.
In a bid to halt a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks since the start of October, Israeli authorities have moved to expedite the demolitions of suspects' homes, a controversial measure meant as a deterrent.
Clashes have erupted in the past over such demolitions, but they have rarely been as deadly as Monday's at the Qalandiya refugee camp, just beyond a checkpoint leading from east Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military said hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at security forces and that some opened fire.
A resident calling himself Abu Amr said he heard noises at around 2:00 am and opened his window to check.
"There were hundreds of soldiers everywhere," he told AFP.
"I told my children not to move. Later there was an explosion, then afterwards there was shooting (which) lasted about 30 minutes."
Israeli forces shot three Palestinians, with two confirmed dead by Palestinian hospital sources. Medics identified them as father-of-three Ahmed al-Ayesh, 28, and Laith Manasra, 21.
Residents said those in the building were forced to leave ahead of the demolition.
The home on the top floor of a three-storey building was destroyed with explosives, residents said, also damaging the other floors and nearby residences.
- '15 minutes to get out' -
The home targeted was that of Mohammed Abu Shahin, accused of shooting dead Israeli hiker Danny Gonen, 25, in June. His wife and two daughters lived there, residents said.
Hundreds of people also gathered for the funeral for the two Palestinians killed nearby and dozens of stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli forces at the checkpoint.
The brother of the alleged attacker who lived in the next building said: "Israeli forces came and told my family we have to leave immediately because of a court decision to destroy (the house)."
"They gave us only 15 minutes to get out," he added, giving his name only as Abu Shahin.
Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, blamed Israel's occupation for the violence.
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"I am sure if they are continuing with these processes, there will be reactions like this," he said.
The shooting of Gonen, in an attack that also wounded another Israeli, sparked outrage among Israelis.
The two were not settlers but hikers who had come from Lod in central Israel.
Shahin's arrest was announced in July, with Israel alleging he belonged to an armed group linked to the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
- Deterrent or collective punishment? -
Israel has sought to expedite demolitions of suspects' homes in response to the surge of violence that began in October.
The violence has killed 82 Palestinians, an Arab Israeli and 12 Israelis.
Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others were shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces.
United Nations experts said Monday that Israeli forces had used excessive force and may have carried out summary executions over the past six weeks.
"Cases of excessive use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinians, including some which appear to amount to summary executions, continue to be reported," said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories, Makarim Wibisono, and the expert on summary executions, Christof Heyns.
"We urge the authorities to carry out independent, thorough, prompt and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions, and to provide compensation to the victims or their families," the UN experts said.
On the razing of homes, Robert Piper, UN coordinator for humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territories, said that "punitive demolitions are inherently unjust, punishing innocent people for the acts of others".
Israel argues that demolitions are effective as a deterrent.
On Saturday, Israeli troops razed the West Bank homes of four Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, hours after an Israeli father and son were shot dead near the flashpoint city of Hebron.
Those operations also sparked clashes in which nine Palestinians were wounded.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon defended the demolitions and said they would continue, adding that "our forces acted professionally" during the Qalandiya operation.
He cited the case of a Palestinian arrested over Friday's murders, after Israeli security forces said the suspect's father and brother turned him in, fearing their home would be razed.