Israeli official says five Palestinian gunmen killed in raid

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By Euronews  with AP
Palestinians protest one of the deadliest periods in recent years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians protest one of the deadliest periods in recent years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   -  Copyright  Adel Hana/Copyright 2023 The AP

Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen in a raid on a West Bank refugee camp on Monday, Israeli security officials said, in a response to a botched attack on Israelis that was likely to further exacerbate tensions in the region.

The Palestinian Health Ministry did not immediately confirm the deaths, saying only that three were injured, one of them critically.

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 government, it's most right-wing ever, which has promised to take a tough stance against the Palestinians.

The Israeli military said it was operating in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp to apprehend the suspects behind a failed shooting attack last month at a West Bank restaurant, where attackers allegedly were thwarted by a weapon malfunction. The attackers then fled the scene, the military said, adding that they were members of the Hamas militant group that rules the Gaza Strip and has elements in the West Bank as well.

The Israeli security officials said two of the five killed were Hamas militants involved in the attempted attack. The three others were gunmen who had exchanged fire with troops during the raid. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the raid with the media.

Hamas said it mourned the deaths of the members of its armed 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 not delay in responding to this crime
Hazem Qassem
Hamas spokesman

The raid comes days after an earlier incursion in the Aqabat Jabr camp, which is 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 at the nearby settlement, the Israeli military has blocked access to several roads into Jericho - a closure that has placed the city under a semi-blockade, disrupting business and creating hourslong bottlenecks at checkpoints that affected even Palestinian security forces, footage showed.

Days of violence

Monday’s violence comes days after an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, mostly militants but also a 61-year-old woman. The next day, a Palestinian shooting attack outside an east Jerusalem synagogue killed seven people, including a 14-year-old.

The Israeli army has ramped up near-nightly raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks within Israel last spring. Over the last year of escalating raids, Jericho has remained a sort of sleepy desert town, spared much of the violence.

The Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for last week’s raid into 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 by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Since the start of this year, 41 Palestinians have been killed in those territories. Some 30 people were killed in Israel by Palestinians in 2022.

The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.

For more watch Euronews' report in the video above.