Reuters International

Palestinians inspect the damage to the family house of Palestinian assailant Bashar Masalha after it was partially demolished by the Israeli forces, in the West Bank village of Hajja near Qalqilya June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

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By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops mistakenly killed a Palestinian bystander on Tuesday while responding with gunfire to a petrol bomb and rock attack on Israeli vehicles in the occupied West Bank, the military said.

An earlier statement from the military had identified the Palestinian as an assailant. The mayor of his village said he was a 15-year-old.

The military said several Palestinians threw petrol bombs and stones at vehicles, injuring three civilians, on a highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that traverses the West Bank. Israeli media reports said two of those hurt were foreign tourists.

Troops gave chase and "after an initial inquiry, it appears that uninvolved bystanders were mistakenly hit during the pursuit," a military spokeswoman said, identifying one of them as the Palestinian killed in the incident.

She said the military had opened an investigation.

Over the past eight months, Palestinian attacks have killed 32 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have shot dead at least 197 Palestinians, 134 of whom Israel has said were assailants. Others were killed in clashes and protests.

Abdul Karim Kassem, head of the local council of the Palestinian village of Beit Ore-Tahta, told Reuters that Mahmoud Badran, the teenager killed in the incident on Highway 443, was in a car with other passengers "returning from a pool in a village near us when they came under fire".

Another Palestinian was wounded by Israeli gunfire and taken to hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The military said two additional suspects were arrested.

The last deadly violent incident occurred on June 8 when two Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis at a cafe in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian leaders say attackers have acted out of desperation over peace talks frozen since 2014 and Israeli settlement building in occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a state.

Tensions over Jewish access to a volatile and contested Jerusalem holy site, revered by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and Jews as Temple Mount, have also fuelled the violence.

Israel says incitement in the Palestinian media and personal problems at home have been important factors that have spurred assailants, often teenagers, to launch attacks.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

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