The Israeli military on Monday acknowledged that its troops fatally shot a teenage Palestinian girl during an operation in the occupied West Bank, saying she was unintentionally hit by fire aimed at gunmen in the area.
It was a rare admission of an error by the military, which has carried out daily arrest operations in the West Bank for nearly nine months. But it said its operations in the area would continue.
About 150 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, making it the deadliest year since 2006.
The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting Israeli army incursions and others not involved in confrontations, including a prominent Al Jazeera journalist, have also been killed in the fighting.
Palestinian officials said Jana Zakarneh, 16, was killed overnight Monday in the northern city of Jenin. According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, her family had been searching for her for an hour and found her body on the roof of their home after Israeli troops withdrew from the area.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Zakarneh was killed “in cold blood” by an Israeli sniper and said Israel must be held accountable.
Military says it was targeting rooftop gunmen
In a statement, the Israeli military said an initial inquiry found the girl “was hit by unintentional fire aimed at armed gunmen” on a nearby rooftop. “It appears the girl who was killed had been on the roof of one of the houses near the gunmen,” it said.
It said the forces opened fire after local militants hurled firebombs and opened fire at the soldiers.
The army said that its commanders “regret any harm to uninvolved civilians,” but said that it would press ahead with its operations.
Jenin is known as a stronghold of militants. The army has long operated in the area, stepping up its activities after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel last spring, some of which were carried out by militants from Jenin.
Zakarneh was killed in the Jenin refugee camp, the same area where Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed last May. The army has said its forces most likely shot her unintentionally, but has provided no evidence to back up the claim that she might have been hit by Palestinian gunmen in the area. Al Jazeera last week asked the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate the shooting.
Israel has been conducting daily arrest raids throughout the West Bank, in an operation prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people.
The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year.
At least 31 people have died in Palestinian attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank this year, according to Israeli figures.