Israeli forces kill at least five Palestinians in the West Bank

The manhunt for six Palestinian escapees from an Israeli prison earlier this month has increased tensions

At least five Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces on Sunday, marking the worst violence in weeks in the occupied West Bank.

Two people were shot dead by Israeli forces in the northern village of Burqin, west of Jenin, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Three other Palestinians were killed in a village north of Jerusalem, it said.

Israel’s military said four members of the Hamas militant group were killed during several raids across the Palestinian territory.

The killings follow a heightened security presence in the West Bank this month after the escape of six Palestinians from a high-security Israeli prison. The fugitives were recaptured within two weeks of the September 6 breakout.

The military said Israeli forces carried out multiple raids aimed at militants “attempting to carry out a terrorist attack”, without providing further details.

Three Hamas members were “killed in crossfire” in the village of Bidu, north of Jerusalem, a military spokesman told The National.

A fourth person was killed in a shootout in Burquin, the spokesman said, while security forces detained a wounded militant. The military was unable to account for the discrepancy with the higher death toll recorded by the Palestinians.

Several Palestinians were wounded in the raids, Wafa reported, while the military said two members of the Israeli security forces were hurt.

The operation was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who said security forces “acted as expected; they engaged the enemy and we back them completely."

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, described the killings as “executions against our people”.

“The continuation of this policy will lead to an explosion of the situation and to more tension and instability," the office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said.

The raids came more than a month after four Palestinians were shot dead by undercover Israeli agents in Jenin. Officers returned fire after being shot at during the raid on August 16, Israeli police said.

The latest shootings have raised fears of further violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Gaza rulers Hamas called on Palestinians to “escalate the resistance against the [Israeli] occupier” in the West Bank.

A ceasefire has largely held since Hamas and Israel fought an 11-day war in May.

Sporadic violence has erupted in recent months, with Gaza militants firing rockets towards Israel on five occasions and sending incendiary balloons over the border. The Israeli military has launched multiple air strikes on the Palestinian enclave over the same period.

Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli-led blockade since 2007, imposed after Hamas came to power in the coastal territory. The Israeli military has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Updated: September 26th 2021, 11:13 AM