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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A 13-year-old Palestinian was fatally wounded by Israeli army gunfire Friday during the weekly protests against settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.

It said Mohammed Daadas died in hospital after being shot in the stomach during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in Deir al-Hatab village, east of Nablus.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the report. Friday, the Muslim day of rest and worship, is often marked by protests in the West Bank against the expansion of Israeli settlements, which most of the international community regards as illegal.

Five other Palestinians were injured Friday in clashes in Beita and Beit Dajan villages, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa. Residents of Beita have struggled for months to dislodge Israeli settlers and the military from a hilltop on village lands.

The clashes come days after Israel announced it would advance plans for 3,000 more homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, despite international criticism. Israel has also advanced a project to build about 1,300 homes for Palestinians in the West Bank, but critics said the move was an attempt to parry global condemnation of settlement construction.

Palestinians eye the West Bank, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six-Day War, as part of a future state, while hardline Israelis including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett say it is a heartland of Jewish history.

About 475,000 Israeli settlers now live in fortified communities in the West Bank, which is home to more than 2.8 million Palestinians. Bennett has ruled out formal peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), saying he prefers to focus on economic improvements.

Although Bennett is a former leader in the settlement movement, his coalition includes anti-occupation lawmakers.

His government that unseated longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held together despite clashing ideologies by avoiding hot-button issues including the future of the Palestinian territories.

On Friday, the government celebrated parliament's approval of its 2021 and 2022 budgets, bringing stability to a shaky coalition after political turmoil that prompted four elections in two years.

Palestinians, for their part, have little trust in their own leadership. A poll last month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 80 percent of respondents want PA president Mahmud Abbas to resign.


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