UN urges 'immediate' end to Israeli-Palestinian violence

The United Nations on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to "immediately" end violence as intra-Palestinian tensions erupted following a deadly Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank city of Nablus fired tear gas at mourners attending the funeral of a Hamas militant killed in Tuesday's raid, amid a surge in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We are in the midst of a cycle of violence that must be stopped immediately," UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said in a statement.

"The Security Council has spoken with one voice, calling on the parties to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric."

Abdel Fatah Hussein Khroushah, 49, and five other Palestinians were killed on Tuesday during intense fighting with Israeli forces in Jenin, a scene of frequent clashes in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli army said Khroushah was a "terrorist operative" suspected of killing two Israeli settlers in the Palestinian town of Huwara on February 26.

An AFP correspondent at the funeral in Nablus saw Palestinian mourners hurling insults at police and equating the Palestinian Authority (PA) to "prostitutes" and "spies" for its coordination with Israel.

In January, in the aftermath of another deadly Israeli raid in Jenin, the PA said it was ending security coordination with Israel.

The PA is controlled by president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement, a rival faction to Hamas.

Palestinian security service spokesman Talal Dweikat said officers securing the funeral had intervened when an argument broke out after "a group unrelated to the martyr's family kidnapped the body and lowered it to the ground", Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif al-Qanou condemned the PA officers' violence, arguing in a statement it "confirms the PA is part of the plan to repress the resistance" to the Israeli occupation.

- 'Outrageous' -

Qanou accused PA leadership of "going against the current and against the will of our people" with what he dubbed "outrageous behaviour" by the officers.

Businesses in Palestinian cities across the West Bank shuttered on Wednesday in a general strike to protest the deadly Israeli raid.

It was the latest in a string of fatal military operations in the Palestinian territory, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Thousands gathered in Jenin for the funerals of the five Palestinians killed alongside Khroushah, with heavily armed masked fighters firing volleys into the air, AFP journalists said.

Near the blockaded Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said an "explosive device" was set off close to troops patrolling the border barrier, without causing any injuries.

The army responded to the incident with fire.

"Tanks struck a military post belonging to the Hamas terrorist organisation in the southern Gaza Strip," the army said in a statement.

Medics in Gaza said two Hamas members sustained minor injuries.

Overnight, a rocket was fired by militants in the Palestinian enclave but appeared to be a misfire.

The army initially said it had fallen inside Gaza, but after searches on the ground reported it "fell adjacent to the security fence in Israeli territory" without causing any injuries.

The violence in the West Bank and elsewhere comes amid celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Purim and against a backdrop of rising tensions since the beginning of the year, coinciding with the tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government that took office in Israel in December.

Some observers fear further violence particularly around Jerusalem's holy sites during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins in late March, and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.

Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 71 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Thirteen Israeli adults and children, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.