Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen in a raid on a West Bank refugee camp on Monday, according to Israeli security officials. The raid, which the military said was to arrest suspects involved in attacks on Israelis, was likely to further escalate tensions in the region.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health did not immediately confirm the casualties, saying only that three were wounded, one of them critically.
The violence is one of the deadliest rounds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years and comes in the first weeks of Israel’s new government, its most right-wing yet, which has pledged to take a tougher stance against Palestinians. Is.
The military said it was working to capture the suspects behind a botched shooting attack at a West Bank restaurant, where the attackers were allegedly thwarted by a weapons malfunction. The attackers then fled the scene, the army said, adding that they were members of the militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has elements in the West Bank.
In Monday’s operation, the army said it was searching for a militant cell it said had barricaded itself inside a house in the refugee camp. During the search, the soldiers encountered armed men and a gun battle ensued. The army said several gunmen killed were involved in an attempted attack on the restaurant.
Israeli security officials say two of the five dead were Hamas militants involved in the attempted attack. There were three other gunmen who exchanged fire with the soldiers during the raid. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid with the media.
The raid comes days after an earlier incursion into the Uqbat Jabr camp, which is near the Palestinian city of Jericho, a desert oasis in an area of the West Bank that has rarely seen such unrest, where military suspects They were also looking for people.
Since last month’s shooting in a nearby settlement, the Israeli army has closed access to several roads leading to Jericho – a closure that has put the city under a semi-blockade, disrupting businesses and blocking checkpoints. But barricades have been erected for hours, which also affected the Palestinian security forces, the footage showed.
Monday’s violence comes days after an Israeli army attack on the Jenin refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, most of them militants but also a 61-year-old woman. The next day, seven people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed by Palestinian gunfire outside an East Jerusalem synagogue.
The Israeli military has stepped up nighttime raids in the occupied West Bank since several deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring. During the escalating raids over the past year and a half, Jericho has remained a sort of sleepy desert town, spared much of the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, in response to last week’s attack on the Jenin refugee camp, announced a halt to security coordination with Israel.
About 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem last year, the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures from the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. About 30 people were killed by Palestinians in Israel in 2022.
The Israeli army says most of the dead were Palestinian militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursion and others who were not involved in the clashes have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians want these areas for their independent state.
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