Israeli army kills 5 armed Palestinians in raid
Israeli forces on Monday killed five Palestinian gunmen in a raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank, according to Israeli security officials. The raid, which the military said was aimed at arresting suspects allegedly involved in a botched attack on Israelis, was likely to further heighten tensions in the region.
The Palestinian Health Ministry did not immediately confirm the deaths, saying only that three people were injured, one seriously.
The violence comes amid one of the deadliest periods in recent years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the first weeks of Israel’s new, most right-wing government ever, which has vowed to take a stand stand firm against the Palestinians.
The army said it was operating to apprehend the suspects behind a failed shooting at a restaurant in the West Bank, where the attackers were allegedly thwarted by a malfunctioning weapon. The attackers then fled the scene, the army said, adding that they were members of the Hamas militant group that rules the Gaza Strip and also has elements in the West Bank.
During Monday’s operation, the army said it was looking for the militant cell which it said had locked itself in a house in the refugee camp. During the search, troops encountered the gunmen and a gunfight broke out. The military said several of the gunmen who were killed were involved in the attempted attack on the restaurant.
Israeli security officials said two of the five killed were Hamas militants involved in the attempted attack. The other three were gunmen who had exchanged fire with troops during the raid. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the raid with the media.
The raid comes days after an earlier raid on the Aqabat Jabr camp, which sits near the Palestinian city of Jericho, a desert oasis in an area of the West Bank that rarely sees such unrest, where troops were also searching for the suspects. .
Since last month’s shooting in the nearby settlement, the Israeli army has blocked access to several roads leading to Jericho – a closure that has placed the city under a semi-blockade, disrupting business and creating bottlenecks for hours at checkpoints that even affected Palestinian security forces, footage showed.
Monday’s violence comes days after an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, most of them militants but also a 61-year-old woman. The following day, a Palestinian shooting outside an East Jerusalem synagogue killed seven people, including a 14-year-old boy.
The Israeli army has intensified its near-night raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel last spring. Over the past year and a half of escalating raids, Jericho has remained something of a sleepy desert city, spared much of the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for last week’s raid on the Jenin refugee camp, declared a halt to security coordination with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures from Israeli rights group B’Tselem. About 30 people were killed in Israel by Palestinians in 2022.
The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But young stone throwers protesting the incursions and others not involved in the clashes were also killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians seek these territories for the independent state they hope for.