Palestinian boy, 16, shot dead 'by Israeli settler'

Police have begun an investigation into the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank by an armed man who Palestinian security forces believe was an Israeli settler.

The body of Aysar Yasser al-Zaben, shot in the back, was found in the early hours of yesterday near the agricultural village of al-Mazra'a al-Sharqiya, where he lived. The village is close to Ramallah. Witnesses said that he had been in a group of boys throwing stones at settlers' cars on Route 60, a main West Bank artery, and had been running away after a settler got out of a car and opened fire on the youths.

Dumar al-Zaben, a cousin of the dead child, told the Ynet news website that his family searched for the boy when he failed to return home during the night. "We searched for him with flashlights," he said. "We knew that he had been working on his family's agricultural field, and we found him there under an olive tree – lying on his stomach, with a bullet wound in his back."

Haaretz reported two Israeli citizens had earlier alerted police after seeing three men, one armed with a rifle, get out of a car in the area where the shooting then took place. Police who came to the scene found rocks littering the side of the road, but no trace of the three men, the newspaper's website said.

Jonathan Pollak of the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee said last night that he had talked to witnesses who said that he had been one of a group of four boys who had been throwing stones and that they had run away when the shooting began. A police spokesman told Associated Press that there had been reports of stone throwing and gunfire in the area.

Mr Pollak said that, while the village borders Route 60 which runs through the West Bank from north to south, and the road is built partly on its lands, its resident have no access to the road because of the blocking of tracks and side roads leading to it by Israeli security forces.

There has been increased tension in the West Bank between settlers and Palestinians as the US has sought to curb settlement expansion in its bid to start peace negotiations. Indirect "proximity" talks have now resumed after a fresh round of shuttle diplomacy by President Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell.

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