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Two Palestinian teens killed ahead of prisoner funeral

Palestinian protesters hold a poster of prisoner Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 3, 2013
Palestinian protesters shout slogans while holding a poster of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a Palestinian prisoner who died of cancer while in Israeli detention, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 3, 2013. Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenage

Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in a clash in the West Bank, medics said Thursday, hiking tensions ahead of the burial of a Palestinian prisoner who died in jail.

The clashes late on Wednesday in the northern town of Tulkarem came after two days of violent protests and a general strike following the death of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a prisoner serving life in Israeli jail who was suffering from cancer.

The army said troops opened fire at "rioters who hurled petrol bombs" at a military post there.

Palestinian security officials said Amer Nassar, 16, was hit by a bullet to the head, and the body of his 17-year-old cousin Naji Balbisi was discovered near an army checkpoint at first light on Thursday, with wounds to the chest.

Both teenagers were to be buried after midday prayers.

With Palestinian anger at boiling point, Gaza militants fired a mortar shell at southern Israel early on Thursday, public radio said.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Palestinian prisoner Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh on April 3, 2013
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Palestinian prisoner Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh to the Abu Dis University, where the corpse was taken for a Palestinian autopsy, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on April 3, 2013.

The army confirmed the fire but could not say whether it was a mortar round or rocket. "It's a military-use projectile,' a spokesman told AFP, adding there were no reports of casualties or damage.

Abu Hamdiyeh's death on Tuesday morning after a battle with throat cancer sparked fury across the occupied territories, with Israel bracing for further unrest when he is buried in Hebron after the midday prayers.

Since news of his death emerged, Hebron has been wracked by ongoing clashes between stonethrowing youths and Israeli troops, and since Tuesday the city has been shut down for a three-day general strike in a show of mourning.

Thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails also went on a one-day hunger strike, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

Israeli soldiers walk toward a cloud of tear gas during clashes north of the West Bank city of Hebron on April 3, 2013
Israeli soldiers walk toward a cloud of tear gas during clashes with Palestinian stone throwers at the al-Arub refugee camp north of the West Bank city of Hebron on April 3, 2013.

The Palestinian leadership has accused Israel of medical negligence in Abu Hamdiyeh's death, despite moves by the prison service to secure his early release on compassionate grounds.

The issue of Palestinians jailed by Israel is highly sensitive, and frequently sparks mass demonstrations across the territories that often develop into violent clashes with the military.

"The Israeli government, in its arrogance, doesn't care" about the prisoners, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas charged on Wednesday.

In Gaza, Salafist militants have since fired a handful of rockets over the border in protest, prompting a retaliatory air strike and a warning from Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon that Israel would not tolerate attacks on its territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that if an existent truce in and around Gaza was violated, Israel would "respond forcefully."

In a separate development, Israel has deployed a fifth battery of its vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system in the southern city of Eilat, due to fears of rocket fire on the Red Sea resort, media reports said.

Abu Hamdiyeh was jailed for life in 2002 on charges of attempted murder in connection with a failed bombing attack on a Jerusalem cafe. He had served 10 years of his sentence when he died.