Israeli forces kill Palestinian fighter in West Bank clashes

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TUBAS, West Bank, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed a Palestinian combatant in clashes near a flashpoint site on Thursday, underlining the continuing violence in the occupied West Bank that will confront the incoming government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the latest in a near daily series of operations over the past year, the Israeli military said that its forces were securing the entrance of Israelis to Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus when Palestinians hurled explosive devices and fired at them.

Soldiers returned fire and "hits were identified", the statement said.

The incident occurred hours after Netanyahu announced he had secured a coalition with religious and ultranationalist partners who oppose Palestinian statehood and want to extend Jewish settlements in the West Bank, to form what is set to be one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history.

The militant Hamas movement, which governs blockaded Gaza and has some presence in the West Bank, claimed the man, identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Ahmad Daraghmeh, as a member.

Palestinian officials said Daraghmeh, a 23-year-old football player from the city of Tubas near Nablus, was shot in the back and leg.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh described the killing as "a crime that is added to the occupation's track record of crimes that target anyone who is Palestinian".

This year has seen the worst levels of violence in the West Bank in more than a decade, much of it concentrated around Nablus and the nearby city of Jenin, with at least 150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - areas that Palestinians seek for an independent state - in a 1967 Middle East war.

Ongoing violence and expanding Israeli settlements have increased diplomatic stagnation since U.S.-brokered negotiations collapsed in 2014.

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by James Mackenzie, Kirsten Donovan

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