2021-09-26 18:08:09 Five Killed in West Bank Shootouts

Five Killed in West Bank Shootouts

JERUSALEM (JTA) — According to Israeli officials, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in armed clashes in the occupied West Bank early Sunday. According to them, the gun battles took place during a series of raids designed to thwart a terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.

In one of the shootouts, two Israeli soldiers were also seriously injured. The military said it was looking into whether they had been injured by Israeli fire.

Three of the dead were claimed by the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that rules the coastal territory of Gaza. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an extremist group supported by Iran, claimed a fourth “martyr.”

The raids occurred at the same time in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, and in a central area between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, said the overnight raids in five locations were carried out by an undercover army unit and special police counterterrorism forces. According to him, the armed men who were killed, as well as four others who were apprehended, were all part of a network plotting terrorist attacks.

Colonel Shefler declined to elaborate on those plans, citing operational requirements and constraints. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s prime minister, said on Sunday that the armed men “were about to carry out terrorist attacks in real time.”

“The soldiers and commanders on the ground acted as expected; they engaged the enemy, and we fully support them,” Mr. Bennett added.

The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which has limited control over parts of the West Bank, condemned what it called Israeli security forces’ “murder” and “field executions” of Palestinians. Mr. Abbas, who is widely despised, has recently come under fire from Hamas and other Palestinians for increasing his engagement and security coordination with Israel’s new government.

The events on Sunday came four months after a fierce cross-border air war between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, during which Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s main rival and a sworn enemy of Israel, positioned itself as the defender of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Israeli raids also came after the escape of six Palestinian inmates, the majority of whom belonged to Islamic Jihad, from a maximum-security prison in northern Israel earlier this month. Palestinians had celebrated the escape and were disappointed when the last two fugitives were apprehended in Jenin, their hometown, a week ago.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Gaza’s Hamas leadership stated that “the blood of the martyrs will not be wasted.” In an attempt to further destabilize the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, it urged “the masses of our Palestinian people in the valiant West Bank to escalate resistance against the occupier at all points of contact.”

Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, Israel’s chief military spokesman, told public radio that due to Hamas’ losses and its desire to establish links between the West Bank and Gaza, Israel was bracing for possible rocket fire from the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

The raids, according to the Israeli military, took place in Jenin, Kufr Dan, Qabatiya, and Burqin in the northern West Bank, as well as in the village of Bidu northwest of Jerusalem. Osama Yasir Soboh, who was killed in a shootout in Burqin, was identified as an Islamic Jihad member. It was here that two Israeli soldiers were injured. Yusuf Soboh, 16, was identified as the second Palestinian killed in the clash in Burqin by Palestinian Authority officials.

The three claimed by Hamas were killed in Bidu during a firefight with special police counterterrorism forces, according to the military.

From Gaza, Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.

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Five Killed in West Bank Shootouts