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Hunt for Israel teen missing in West Bank turns violent

Palestinians receive treatment for injuries sustained in clashes with Israeli settlers who stormed their village in the occupied West Bank during a search for a missing teenager
— Al Mughayyir (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israel launched a massive manhunt in the occupied West Bank Friday after an Israeli teenager went missing, with the search party clashing with Palestinian villagers, sources from both sides said.

Benjamin Achimeir, 14, went missing at around 6:30 am (0330 GMT) from Malachi Hashalom, an outpost near Ramallah, the Israeli army and a family member said.

The Israeli army said that air, ground, police and other forces were involved in the search, "blocking roads and scanning the area".

Thousands of people joined them, said Israel Ganz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council which provides services to Israeli settlements in the area.

"Thousands of volunteers from across the country are searching together with army units and the council," he said in a video statement.

"All possibilities are on the table, and all forces are treating every scenario seriously. We will remain here until we find Benjamin."

Hannah, sister of the missing teenager, said her brother was familiar with the area, where he often herded sheep.

- Settler raid -

An AFP reporter saw several Jewish settlers who were part of the manhunt raiding the nearby village of Al-Mughayyir, some 500 metres (yards) west of Malachi Hashalom.

"Settlers raided the town with the excuse of searching for the missing Israeli boy," village mayor Amin Abu Alyah told AFP.

"They raided the village when the army arrived to back them up."

Armed with guns and stones, the settlers stormed the Palestinian village even as a muezzin urged residents to stay indoors.

In the ensuing violence, at least one person was killed and 25 wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Eight of the wounded were hit with live ammunition, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Late on Friday the army said security forces had moved to disperse "violent riots" in the area, adding that "rocks were hurled at... soldiers, who responded with fire".

"Forces operated to withdraw Israeli civilians who entered the town of Al-Mughayyir," it said.

"As of this moment, the violent riots have been dispersed and there are no Israeli civilians present within the town."

The army disclosed that one soldier was taken to hospital after being hurt "as a result of the rock hurling".

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence since early last year, which has intensified since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.

At least 462 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian official figures.

Faced with the mounting violence, Washington and some of its allies have for the first time imposed sanctions on some settlers.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the West Bank is home to around 490,000 Israeli settlers who live in communities considered illegal under international law.

The war in Gaza erupted after an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,634 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.