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Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian youths during a West Bank clash, officials said Thursday, heightening tension ahead of the funeral of a prisoner who died in Israel.
The clashes late on Wednesday in the two of Tulkarem, in the northern West Bank, came after a day of violent protests across the West Bank, where a general strike was called after the death Tuesday of life prisoner Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh in an Israeli jail.
The Israeli army said troops opened fire at rioters who hurled petrol bombs at a military post at Tulkarem late on Wednesday.
Palestinian security officials said Amer Nassar, 16, was killed by shots to the head, while the body of his 17-year-old cousin Naji Balbisi was discovered at the site at first light on Thursday with wounds to the chest.
With Palestinian anger at boiling point, militants in the Gaza Strip early Thursday fired a mortar shell into southern Israel, Israeli public radio said.
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 that there were no reports of casualties or damage.
Abu Hamdiyeh's death Tuesday morning after a battle with throat cancer has been met with outrage in the Palestinian Territories.
In his hometown, the southern West Bank city of Hebron, schools, shops and offices were closed Wednesday and stone-throwing youths clashed with the army in the city centre.
Wednesday's strike was also fully observed in the northern city of Nablus and in east Jerusalem, but only partly in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip, correspondents said.
Thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails also refused their breakfast in mass protest, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said.
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.
Abu Hamdiyeh's death has drawn angry outbursts from the Palestinian leadership.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday that "the Israeli government, in its arrogance, doesn't care" about the detainees.
Gaza's Hamas rulers warned that Israel would "regret its continuing crimes", and Salafist militants fired rockets over the border in protest both Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting a retaliatory air strike.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Wednesday that Israel would respond to any attacks on its territory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a stern warning, saying: "If calm is disrupted, we will respond forcefully."
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.