Death toll rises as teens search continues

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RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Israeli troops killed two Palestinians on Sunday, Palestinian medics and a militant group said, as Israel pressed on with its crackdown on Hamas, the group it accuses of abducting three Israeli teenagers. And an Israeli teen was killed in attack from across the country's border with Syria.

In a sign of growing Palestinian anger, Palestinian police loyal to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas also came under attack -- by a rock-throwing crowd that wanted them to confront Israeli troops on a raid of the de facto capital of Ramallah.

Gunfire -- apparently warning shots fired by police from the balcony and windows of their station house -- echoed for several minutes in the heart of Ramallah as dozens of protesters crouched or ran for cover. There were no reports of casualties.

The Israeli military said soldiers entered several Palestinian cities and villages overnight, rounding up six suspected militants.

Israel has said its West Bank operation is two-fold: to find Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19 -- who went missing near an Israeli settlement June 13 -- and to deal a substantial blow to Hamas.

The crisis has put pressure on a unity pact between Mr. Abbas and Hamas, a group sworn to Israel's destruction. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the disappearance of the youths.

During an overnight raid in the city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers fired at stone-throwing Palestinians, killing Ahmad Famawi, 26, residents and medics said. In Ramallah, the Islamic jihad militant group said one of its members was killed by Israeli gunfire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in public remarks to his cabinet Sunday, said Israel had conveyed its evidence against Hamas to several countries and would soon make it public. He defended Israel's military action in the West Bank.

"We have no intention of deliberately hurting anyone, but our forces are acting as necessary for their self-defence and, on occasion, there are fatalities or casualties on the Palestinian side," Mr. Netanyahu said.

The military has so far searched some 1,350 sites in the West Bank and detained more than 330 Palestinians. The raids have triggered street clashes in which four Palestinians have been killed, including in Sunday's incidents.

Elsewhere, an Israeli teenager was killed and two other civilians were injured Sunday in what the Israeli military called an intentional cross-border attack from Syria into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

The attack is the most substantial incident on Israel's border with Syria since the conflict in that country erupted more than three years ago, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military. The Israeli army responded with tank fire on Syrian military targets across the border.


The Washington Post contributed.


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