Officials: Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in raid
The violence comes between one of the bloodiest episodes in recent years in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and in the first weeks of Israel’s new, most right-wing government ever, promised to take a tough stance against the Palestinians.
The Israeli military says it is operating at the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp to arrest the suspects behind last month’s botched gun attack at a West Bank restaurant where the attackers are believed to be. was thwarted due to weapon malfunction. The military said the attackers then fled the scene, adding that they were members of the Hamas militant group that governs the Gaza Strip and also have elements in the West Bank.
The military said on Monday it was searching for the militant branch behind the shooting, which it said sealed itself off inside a house in the refugee camp. During the search, the army encountered gunmen and a gun battle broke out. The military said some of the gunmen killed were in connection with a plot to attack the restaurant.
Israeli security officials said two of the five killed were Hamas fighters involved in the plot. The other three were gunmen who exchanged gunfire with the army during the raid. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid with the media.
Hamas said it mourned the deaths of members of its armed wing, without specifying how many died. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said violence would be responded to.
“Our people and their resistance will not delay in responding to this crime,” he said.
The raid comes days after an earlier attack on the Aqabat Jabr camp, near the Palestinian city of Jericho, a desert oasis in the West Bank region that rarely experiences such unrest, where the military is are also looking for suspects.
Since the shooting at a nearby settlement, the Israeli military has blocked access to several roads into Jericho – the closures have placed the city on a semi-blockade, disrupting business. and created hour-long congestion at checkpoints affecting even Palestinian security forces, the footage shows.
Monday’s violence came days after Israeli troops raided the Jenin refugee camp, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly militants but also a 61-year-old woman. The next day, a Palestinian gun attack outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem killed seven people, including a 14-year-old boy.
The Israeli military has ramped up near-nightly attacks in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring. In the final year of escalating attacks, Jericho remained a sort of sleepy desert town, largely spared the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for last week’s raid on the Jenin refugee camp, has announced the suspension of security coordination with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making it the bloodiest year in these regions since 2004, according to figures from Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Since the beginning of this year, 41 Palestinians have been killed in those territories. About 30 people were killed in Israel by Palestinians in 2022.
The Israeli military said most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But young men who threw stones against the incursions and others who did not participate in the confrontations were also killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek those territories for the independent state they hope for.
Goldenberg reports from Tel Aviv, Israel. Wafaa Shurafa contributed reporting from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.