Thousands of mourners on Tuesday marched in a funeral procession for two Palestinian men shot dead by the Israeli army, after being accused of abducting and killing three Israeli youths in the West Bank in June.
Some say this incident spiraled into the seven-week war in Gaza.
Waving Palestinian and green Hamas flags, the mourners carried the bodies of Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, both in their 30s, through the streets of the West Bank city of Hebron.
Israel had spent months searching for Kawasme and Abu Aysha. They were shot dead during a gun battle after Israeli troops surrounded a house in the city before dawn, the army and residents said.
Kawasme and Abu Aysha were suspected by Israeli authorities of carrying out the kidnapping and killing of the three teenage seminary students, who were abducted while hitchhiking at night near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on June 12.
The military said army and police forces were trying to arrest the two suspects when a firefight erupted. It said they were both killed in the fire exchange.
Kawasme and Abu Aysha were affiliated with Hamas, which initially denied any link to the June attack.
Last month, however, the group acknowledged responsibility, although its leadership said it had no advance knowledge that the men were planning to abduct the students.
Israeli forces have conducted widespread sweeps across the West Bank in the past three months, rounding up hundreds of suspected Hamas members in house-to-house raids in the hunt for the suspects behind the attack.
The abduction and killing of Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, caused alarm throughout Israel and set off a cycle of violence, including the killing of Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, by three Israelis who have been arrested and charged.
Khdeir's killing led to clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police in east Jerusalem, while the round-up of Hamas suspects across the West Bank provoked rocket fire at Israel from militants in Gaza, leading to the war.
Gaza medical officials say 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the 50-day conflict, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed.
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