QALANDIA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank – Palestinian officials said they called off a planned round of peace talks Monday after Israeli soldiers killed three protesters during clashes following an arrest raid in the West Bank.
But in comments that suggested the meeting had gone ahead as planned, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said “no meetings have been canceled. We’ve been clear that the two parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations.”
Israeli officials refused to comment.
The violence, the deadliest incident in the area in years, dealt a new blow to U.S.-led peace efforts, which resumed late last month after a nearly five-year break. Palestinian officials have accused the Israelis of stonewalling and using the process as a cover to build new Jewish settlements. The deaths of Palestinians further soured the atmosphere.
It was not known when talks will resume, but Palestinian officials said the break was expected to be brief. They spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to talk to media.
Monday’s clashes broke out when Israeli forces entered the Qalandia refugee camp, just outside of Jerusalem, on an overnight arrest raid. Shai Hakimi, a spokesman for the paramilitary border police, said hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets and hurled firebombs, concrete blocks and rocks at officers.
The Israeli military said soldiers rushed to the scene to provide backup and opened fire after they felt their lives were in “imminent danger.”
An official at a Ramallah hospital confirmed three deaths and more than a dozen wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
The violence drew fierce Palestinian condemnations. “Such a crime proves the need for an urgent and effective international protection for our people,” Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a statement.
Shortly afterward, Palestinian officials said a planned round of peace talks had been called off. They said the Palestinians were protesting the day’s violence, and were also upset by an Israeli announcement Sunday that it was pushing forward with new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians object to construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the lands they claim along with the Gaza Strip for their future state. Israel captured all three territories in 1967.
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