Officials: Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in raid
AQABAT JABR, West Bank — Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen in a raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Monday, Israeli security officials said, in response to a botched attack on Israelis that could further inflame tensions in the area. 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 Israeli military said it was operating in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp to apprehend suspects behind a failed shooting last month at a restaurant in the West Bank, where the attackers were reportedly 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.
The army said it was searching on Monday for the militant cell behind the shooting 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.
Hamas said it mourned the deaths of members of its military wing, without specifying how many had died. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the violence would be met with a response.
“Our people and their resistance will soon respond to this crime,” he said.
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 the 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 affected even 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 of escalating raids, Jericho has remained something of a sleepy desert town, 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. Since the beginning of this year, 41 Palestinians have been killed in these territories. 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.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Wafaa Shurafa contributed reporting from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.